On June 22-24, PLAN staff and leader Maria Portillo (pictured below on the right) joined more than 1,000 others in Chicago for the National Family and Community Engagement Conference. Maria, a PLAN leader at Esperanza Elementary School in East Oakland, shares her experience below and talks about what she gained by attending this event.
A: I got involved with PLAN by personal invitations from Eleazar Cuenca, LEAP champion at Esperanza, and Enrique Valencia, PLAN parent organizer. I got involved because I like it, I was curious and I wanted to better serve my community. I was drawn to Esperanza Elementary because I like working with kids and I like to volunteer at school. I got involved with the traffic safety campaign because I enjoyed forming partnerships with police officers and parents to increase safety. We organized a safety forum, where the police officers spoke, and I enjoyed being a co-MC. There is still a lot to be done, but what matters is that we began a relationship that we will have to sustain for increased safety.
Q: What was the Chicago experience like?
A: My experience in Chicago was very positive. I learned many things, specifically as they relate to working with parents in the education system. I enjoyed spending time with my colleagues and meeting different people. I brought back information that I hope to share with my fellow leaders. I learned how to be attentive at workshops and how to interact with many different people. I have a notebook full of notes of things I learned at workshops. Workshop topics included “Culturally Competent Strategies for Parent Engagement in Community Schools,” “Parent Mentors in Classrooms: Improving Achievement & Building Community Leadership” and “Amplifying Community Leadership for Funding Equity & Curriculum Quality” presented by the Intercultural Development Research Association.
Q: Something else you would like to add?
A: I am motivated to teach and to be useful to the organization. I know that my visit to Chicago was part of my leadership development and this will allow me to grow and help others. I feel very motivated. I would like to inspire Oakland parents to not feel frustrated. Some have said that they feel neglected by the principals at their schools. We have to motivate them and let them know that we are a resource for them. We have to be more present in schools to help them help their children achieve academic success. I think that once achieved parents will feel satisfied. We can do a lot if we have the support of principals and the community. We can facilitate workshops and build relationships.
Maria’s attendance to the National Family and Community Engagement Conference was supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
By Enrique Valencia