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How One Mom Helped Get Others Involved

Getting Involved: Tanyit Arellanos organized volunteers to help supervise students and encouraged Latino parents to become involved at school.

Tanyit Arellanos
Tanyit Arellanos

By GreatSchools Staff

Tanyit Arellanos is the mom of two children. Her daughter, Elizabeth, was a sixth-grader at James Lick Middle School when Tanyit became involved at the school. Tanyit has been a childcare provider for many years.

The Problem:

When her daughter started middle school at James Lick in 2005, Tanyit noticed two problems right away. First, students arrived at school early in the morning and would hang around unsupervised waiting for school to start. There were often scuffles between students during this time, and it did not feel like a safe environment to Tanyit. Second, although over 60% of the students at the school are Latino, the Latino parents were not involved in the school. When Tanyit attended the first PTA meeting of the year, no other Latino parents showed up.

Making a Change:

Tanyit began coming to school with her daughter early each morning to help supervise the students.

She put on a name tag that said "Parent Volunteer" and mingled with the students. At the same time, she talked with other Latino parents she met at the school and tried to recruit them to help her with supervision. "I'm very friendly and I say hi to everyone," she said. "I would just ask them, 'Can you help me? Can you help for even 15 or 20 minutes? Don't be afraid'!" There were four parents she frequently saw watching the kids from the window. She asked them to help, and they said no, so she kept on asking until they said yes. Tanyit eventually recruited 12 other parents to help supervise kids in the morning. Some stand near the front door; others supervise the yard or the cafeteria.

The parent liaison at James Lick noted that as these parents began to help at the school, they became more involved in other ways, too. They started attending meetings and working in the cafeteria, and they are now a presence at the school. Tanyit also joined a larger effort at her school to get Latino parents involved. Another parent, Daisy Hernandez, was working with the San Francisco Chapter of Parents for Public Schools to start a club for Latino parents. The club is intended to increase communication between parents and provide a way parents can help each other navigate the school. Parents who speak both Spanish and English can translate flyers sent home in English, help make phone calls and attend meetings with Spanish-speaking parents.

Tanyit supported the idea of the club and believes that getting parents together to talk informally will also help them overcome their fears of being involved at school. At club meetings parents can tell each other about school experiences so they seem less threatening. Tanyit was instrumental in recruiting parents to come to the club's first meeting. She told everyone she could about the meeting, calling some parents on the phone and telling others about it when they dropped their kids off for school. Fifty parents showed up for the first meeting.

Getting Other Parents Involved:

Tanyit believes many parents are intimidated by school because they do not speak English well or they did not get much schooling themselves. When she was recruiting parents for yard duty help, she was persistent in asking for help and she emphasized to parents how important it was to be involved with their kids. The new Latino parent club at James Lick makes it easier for parents to be involved in the school because they have the support and help of other parents.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

08/27/2009:
"Is there a way for other parents to create a chapter for their school from the state they live in? Example I would love to create a chapter here in Springfield Massachusetts, who do I go about creating such thing, I believe a cub for latinos will be huge here, I am latino myself."
01/7/2008:
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
09/7/2006:
"Way to go, Tanyit and Great Schools for getting the word to the rest of us! In Michigan, too, there's a parent support group forming from the positive influence of Hispanic neighbors in one section of our city: Grand Rapids. It's called IPPI: Integrating Proactive Parents Initiative...uniting parents seeking proactive solutions for ALL children. Everything we do is started by parents, for parents...in the homes, schools and churches of our neighborhood. And all meetings (every Monday) and materials are in Spanish & English, too. Our goal is 50 parents in each group and our foundation is built through establishing relationships of trust between cultures and school communities. We have 9 schools and 5 different School Districts represented in our 17 parents so far. Also, we're seeing stereotypes about each other being dispelled: Hispanic parents getting to know African-American parents, getting to know the differences between El Salvadoran and Mexican parents, for example. It's a great beginning for some parents with young children and a support for Middle/High School parents, as well. THANK YOU for encouraging folks like us with your story! Peace Out & Within, Diann Rockwood "
09/5/2006:
"We have the same exact problem at our school. The problem is that we don't have a single Spanish speaking parent on the PTA. Actually, there we only have 3 consistently active parents! I personally pay one of my employees for translating our flyers. Your article is giving me some hope that maybe this school year will be different. "
09/5/2006:
"WOW! That is so wonderful to read and great to know we still have caring parents out there...great job Tanyit! You made a difference that will be felt for a long time. My mother never did go to any of my events nor did she partake on any of the PTA when I was in school and yes, it was the fact she was scare since she did not speak English nor did have hardly any education. Thanks again!"
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