SAN FERNANDO : Parents Learn to Aid Their Kids’ Education


Carlos and Rosalia Garcia of Sylmar said their parents didn’t push them to get good grades when they were in school. So nine weeks ago, they decided to go back to school to learn how to better encourage their three children.

Wednesday night they graduated--and enthusiastically accepted their diplomas--as they walked to the stage of San Fernando Middle School’s auditorium, embracing their instructors.

The Garcias, both 37, along with 278 other, mostly Latino parents of students at Morningside Elementary School, graduated from a nine-week training course offered by the Parent Institute for Quality Education. The course teaches parents how to get more involved in their children’s education, in a community where many Latino parents have a hands-off attitude because of the language barrier.


“I learned that as a parent, I have a voice and a vote,” Concepcion Vasquez, 37, said in Spanish. She has one child at Morningside and two in other public schools.

The nonprofit Parent Institute for Quality Education was created in San Diego in 1987 by Vahac Mardirosian, a Baptist minister and community activist for Latino educational issues. He designed the institute to lower Latino student dropout rates.

In 1992, the institute began teaching parents of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District and has since increased parent involvement in 205 schools. Twenty thousand parents in San Diego and Los Angeles have graduated from the institute since it started, said Rene Maldonado, one of the instructors of the course, who is also a translator for the Los Angeles district’s parent community services unit.

“It’s helped me a lot to understand the school system,” said Patsy Rivera, whose 5-year-old son Rogelio is in kindergarten at Morningside. She said the classes--held once a week for 90 minutes--also informed her about the drug, alcohol and gang involvement she wants her son to avoid.

Rivera received a letter in the mail from Morningside about the course. She said she thought that taking it would better help her understand her son’s educational needs.

“It’s a big change for these parents to become involved in their children’s education,” said Christina Bradley, spokeswoman for Southern California Edison Co., which sponsored this round of classes.


As family members applauded and a mariachi band played during the commencement-like ceremony, held at San Fernando Middle School because there was not enough room at Morningside, some parents took their children to the stage with them. Others gave their instructors gifts and thanked them.

“For us, this is the culmination, but for the parents, it is the beginning of (increased) participation in the school system,” said Luis Ituarte, another instructor.