Every Child in Focus: Engaging and Supporting Hispanic Families

Tina Hartman is the Fort Wayne Area PTA Council President.

Fort Wayne Area PTA Council in Fort Wayne, Indiana had the distinct pleasure of being invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Hispanic Education Fair. The planning committee asked us to provide two 30-minute breakout sessions on PTA and Family Engagement. We were very excited about the prospect because we have a Spanish Immersion Elementary School and a high population of Spanish-speaking families across our district. The challenging part was that we recognized our Board’s lack of diversity in this area.

FWPTA1We called on Indiana PTA for Spanish and English material that we could have available for parents and students. We also are extremely blessed to be part of National PTA because I reached out to our National Service Representative, Nore Hare, and she put me in touch with Armen Alvarez, who manages Multicultural Membership Development for the association. After a couple of conference calls and a few emails, we were ready to go with a brand new presentation from National PTA. Armen also graciously took time to travel to Fort Wayne to present the breakout sessions.

The day of the event—October 11—was exciting because we were reaching a more diverse group of families, and we learned so much about their culture along the way. While Armen was busy networking, Indiana PTA President-Elect Theresa Distelrath and I remained at the PTA table to talk with families. We quickly realized that we should have had more than one Spanish-speaking leader with us because we had no idea what the students were translating to their parents. Armen did a wonderful job presenting the Spanish version of the session. Theresa and I laughed and clapped along with the families even though we could only pick out a few words here and there.

FWPTA2Before leaving, we met with the organizer of the event.  He expressed some of his struggles in planning the event because last year 350 parents and students attended and this year attendance was down. We quickly made some suggestions of who could be contacted within Fort Wayne Community Schools for support in sharing information about the event with families. We also discussed sponsorship opportunities for the event next year along with advertisements in el Mexicano newspaper for PTA. As a result of our PTA’s participation in the event, I believe we have created a tremendous partnership and some great leads on Hispanic-owned businesses in our area. We have a work plan in place for continued outreach starting in the Fort Wayne area and hopefully expanding to other areas of Indiana.

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