Local Latino parents gain a new voice



Thanks to the efforts of a handful of concerned parents and faculty at Wilbur Cross High School, parents who speak only Spanish are now able to be more involved in their children’s educations.

The Latino Parent Resource Organization, or L-PRO, was established last November with the aid of a grant totaling $13,575 from the United Way’s Community Response Fund and the Bayer Corporation, as well as the New Haven Public Education Fund. The organization holds monthly meetings at Wilbur Cross High School aimed at increasing Latino parents’ understanding of an educational system from which they can often feel distant.

Dina Pollock, a social worker at Wilbur Cross High School, said that the organization grew out of concerns that many parents were uninvolved with the school because of the language barrier. She said about 40 percent of the school’s student body is Hispanic — a larger percentage than in any other school in the New Haven School District.

“I know how difficult it is for parents who don’t speak English,” Pollock said. “[L-PRO] kind of generated out of discussions with parents.”

Judy Puglisi, a teacher at Wilbur Cross High School and L-Pro project coordinator, said that so far the organization has hosted a number of information sessions for Spanish-speaking parents, including a college admissions workshop and an adolescent development seminar. She said parent reaction to the program has been very positive, and she hopes to one day expand it to other schools in the district.

“I think it’s been very successful,” Puglisi said. “Parents are coming back every month and finding it very useful. I do think they were intimidated by the language barriers. Long term we’d like it to be a district program open to all parents who speak Spanish.”

Puglisi said she tried to start a similar organization four years ago, but a lack of funding prevented it from getting off the ground. She also said the attempt lost momentum because of the lack of an outreach worker. She attributed the current program’s growing membership — which now stands at 38 parents compared to only a handful in the original organization — in large part to the efforts of outreach worker Mayra Pabon.

“For us, this is beyond our expectations,” Puglisi said.

Lydia Bornick, executive director of the New Haven Public Education Fund, a partner in the project responsible for managing the grant, emphasized the importance of L-PRO in integrating Spanish-speaking parents into the greater community.

“L-PRO is intended to build their knowledge base and have them join in the larger population,” Bornick said.

Keith Kelly, manager of public policy and community affairs for the Bayer Corporation and a member of the New Haven Public Education Fund board of directors, said L-PRO provides not only a source of information for Spanish-speaking parents, but increases their involvement.

“If there’s an opportunity to ask questions in Spanish, that’s going to provide them with better information,” Kelly said. “It enhances their level of understanding of what their involvement means to the level of education for their children.”

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