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Sandy Journal

Jordan High monthly meetings help Spanish-speaking parents

Feb 22, 2017 12:00PM ● By Julie Slama

Jordan High School offers monthly meetings to Spanish-speaking parents to help them learn about the school and educational system. (Roberto Jimenez/Jordan High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
About one year ago, around 20 Spanish-speaking parents came to a Jordan High School meeting to learn more about the school their children attend. 
“We held the meeting as a way for these parents to become familiar with the school, its resources and key people for them to talk to about their students’ classes,” Jordan High Assistant Principal Roberto Jimenez said. “We had a low number of Spanish-speaking parents contact the school, attend parent-teacher conferences, ask for counselors or become involved. We realized there was a language and culture barrier, so we decided to hold a meeting for them.”
That meeting has become a monthly occasion where about 50 to 60 parents regularly attend. It also has evolved into a Spanish phone line for calls to be directed to Jimenez.
The “puertas abiertas,” or open doors meeting, addresses topics to help students succeed, Jimenez said.
When the school recently held College Night to prepare students for their future, Jimenez held it in Spanish for these parents.
“We went over financial aid, loans, scholarships and the application process. We’ve had sessions to help parents understand the registration process, how to access Skyward and see their children’s grades and attendance on that website, how to directly email teachers, what graduation requirements are and information about student clubs so their children can be active in the school,” he said.
The meetings also have stretched into community resources as Jordan High has partnered with the Alliance Community Service — a nonprofit organization that helps Latino families with ACA marketplace insurance and workplace safety training, supports breast cancer support groups, citizenship and legal services — and Midvale Community Building Community (CBS), an organization that networks and partners to help direct families to resources in their area.
CBC Community Relations Spokeswoman Claudia Gonzales said the organization has served the community for 15 years and has helped Spanish-speaking families understand where to get help for vaccinations, physical therapy, senior citizen care, stress reduction, dental care or get special permits to continue in school.
“We provide a sources center for parents so they feel comfortable and can get the information they need,” she said.
Jimenez said he has invited both organizations as a way to reach more Latino parents. He also has invited Salt Lake Community College to attend meetings.
“A lot of families have parents who work two or three jobs, so it’s difficult for them to get here. Many of them are new and it’s their first year so once we can get past the biggest barrier — the language — then they learn the importance of their student’s attendance, which classes they need to take and the necessity of homework. Some of them don’t know how to use a computer, so we turned one meeting into teaching them. Many of them just wished they had someone to talk to so they could ask questions. We’re now able to help them,” he said.
While Jimenez realizes there are parents who speak other languages who may need assistance, he said he addressed the largest population who attend Jordan High, which also has some of the lowest attendance and achievement records of the ethnic groups who attend the school.
“I’m being the bridge from these parents to teachers and counselors. I’m trying to teach them the school system and give them partners so they have resources to learn their basic community needs such as where to take their kid to a pediatrician before school starts so they can receive immunizations. Many Anglo families who are born here take these things for granted, but for these families, they may not be aware of who to call, how to go about making a call or how to get the things their kids need,” he said.
He said he has answered questions that have helped parents of children who attend several other schools.
“Their younger children attend elementary schools and so now they’re feeling more comfortable trying to talk to their teachers and administrators. Some have even started to volunteer in those school buildings,” he said.
Jimenez also has brought a shared culture within the group. At the last meeting, participants enjoyed tamales and arroz con leche, and he sees them expanding to other Latino dishes with upcoming meetings.
“We want our parents to be like partners than patrons and we are getting a lot more response after they understand and get comfortable with our education system,” he said.