Latino youth aim to increase parent involvement in school

ST. GEORGE — As many Utah schools wrap up mid-year parent-teacher conferences, schools recognize parent attendance plays a big role in student success.

However, Snow Canyon Middle School in the city of St. George noticed a troubling trend: parent attendance was diminishing.

“I’ve been here for six years,” said Brandon Yost, a teacher at the school. “Parent teacher conferences have kind of dwindled.”

A group of students found an innovative way to help. They call themselves Latinos in Action, and with their help, parent attendance is on the rise.

Anel Encinas is a student at the middle school and a member of Latinos in Action. She’s also a translator for parents at conferences to help break the language barrier that discourages parents from attending.

“A lot of parents don’t come because they don’t know how to speak English,” she said.

However, the language barrier isn’t the only deterrent for parents. Some need a nudge to feel welcome and wanted.

“We take the time to call each parent and invite them to come,” said Encinas.

At parent teacher conferences, Latinos in Action also provides a babysitting service for parents who need the extra help. It’s another way the student group found they can help bring parents in and interact with teachers.

“Since we started Latinos in Action this year at our school, we’ve had attendance double or triple,” Yost said. “It’s awesome to see these parents come out and feel like a part of the community when before I hadn’t seen them coming. Our Latino parents are coming out and it’s because they will have help here.”

The program is drawing more parents, but it’s also helping the students earn high school credit while they work to improve the community. As both students and parents become more invested in education, many of the students are making goals and planning to go to college.

“I want to go to Harvard University,” said Nicholas Diaz, a student and member of Latinos in Action. “A lot of these students want to go to big universities.”

Latinos in Action also gives back to younger children: Members tutor elementary school students twice a week.

“We can do more in our lives,” said Diaz. “We can actually get out there in the world and actually help the world.”

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