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“In Mexico, I have a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Unfortunately, I had to leave my job to come to this life here, at home. It was a difficult transition and that is why it was so good to get involved with PIE,” said Susana R. of her initial experiences with Parents Involved in Education, or PIE, a multi-agency collaborative effort that aims to engage monolingual Spanish-speaking parents to take an active role in their child’s education, according to the PIE website.
It has been more than six years since Susana, who asked that her full name not be used to shield her family from discrimination, and her children came to live in Longmont and, ever since, she and her husband have been involved in PIE to help them gain a sense of belonging and the information to support her children in their education, she said.
For non-English-speaking parents whose children are in school, the education opportunity gap is wide, and it is especially persistent within the Latinx community, which is why PIE was founded, according to Meca Delgado, Boulder County Healthy Youth Alliance program manager and PIE chair.
Martin Martinez, family support specialist at Boulder County and PIE co-chair, said, “What is unique (about PIE) is that we serve monolingual Spanish-speaking parents. There are tons of resources for English-speakers and we saw this as a gap, not only for parents but for kids. There is an opportunity gap and we wanted to help meet that need.”
For over a decade, PIE has partnered with multiple organizations in Longmont and across the county to increase Latinx parent involvement in their children’s education and provide parents with tools and skills to support the social, emotional and physical health of their children, according to Delgado.
But it is not all about academics, it also is about culture, according to Jenny Diaz-Leon, Children, Youth, and Families program specialist at the city of Longmont and one of 15 PIE community partners.
“We are both bilingual and bicultural. We can answer questions in Spanish and English. For first-generation students, too, we are able to give (them) a different kind of experience, based on the things we (also) struggle with,” she said. “It’s not just the students but the parents, too. We are partners, we are a team working together, helping the students get to the future.”
All community partners contribute a membership fee to keep PIE standing, according to Martinez.
“If they are unable to do that, they pay for a dinner (at) an event, or (for other) costs, but the district is the biggest supporter. They fund the program, child care, translation and the dinners when hosting in person,” he said.
Olga Cordero, director of Student Services, Equity and Engagement at SVVSD, said the district has a strong connection with PIE.
“In our school district we believe and value each and every one of our students/families. We strive to provide access, technology, education and so much more to our students, and we are mindful of the disparities that exist. We continually come together to collaborate and listen to our communities’ needs.”
COVID-19 has put strain on the way education works everywhere, which means both the district and PIE have had to adapt.
“The road is unknown, unprecedented, and we are surviving and thriving. Every day brings a new challenge and SVVSD is willing to think outside the box to be innovative in providing services to each and every student,” Cordero said.Due to the pandemic, all PIE sessions will be conducted online this fall, according to Martinez.
“This year threw us for a loop and we are trying it online. We do better in person because this is all about relationships, building and establishing trust with one another, but we didn't want to leave families hanging,” he said.
While the platform has moved online, PIE aims to continue to provide the same level of service and connection.
“It is a little different because we are missing seeing each other in person. Being online has its limitations but in and of itself it is not a barrier… PIE is still effective because their charisma and the way they care about the community, the reason why sessions take place, are all the same,” Susana said.
This year PIE will have a heavy focus on technology and access, as this has been one of the most prevalent challenges for parents during the pandemic, but it will continue to cover other topics, including positive parenting techniques, substance use prevention, sexual abuse and conversations with young people, according to Delgado.
Organizational members of the collective include:
Blue Sky Bridge
Boulder County Housing and Human Services
Boulder County Public Health
Casa De La Esperanza
City of Longmont Children Youth and Families
El Centro Amistad
Front Range Community College
Healthy Youth Alliance
Intercambio Uniting Communities
St. Vrain Valley School District
Voices for Children CASA
Colorado Division of Behavioral HealthFor more information on PIE and ways to get involved, visit its Facebook page.