#101 – Empowering Immigrant Families Through Networking & Consistent Events

Written by Jia Lin-Bothe, Director of Family Empowerment

Having signage in families’ home languages is one way to create a welcoming environment.

Charlotte continues to grow in our immigrant population. More than one in six people who live in Charlotte are born outside the US.¹ In my day-to-day work supporting schools with their family engagement and empowerment efforts, I’m always reminded of the influx of Latino students and families our school partners serve. 

As an immigrant, I often think back to how my mother valued my education and the type of involvement she played. During our first year in America, she would walk three miles one way to the district school board meeting each month. With her broken English, she would introduce herself and quietly stand on the side. I remember her coming home with the previous month’s meeting minutes and then using the electronic dictionary to translate everything. Oh, I don’t miss the annoying beeping noises! Going through those notes was how we learned about the education system. 

Now, I have the privilege and honor of working alongside our school partners to teach immigrant families how our education system works. Schools play a pivotal role in fostering diversity and inclusivity in today’s increasingly interconnected world. Among the diverse student populations, immigrant families bring a unique richness to the educational landscape. 

Specifically, at Governors’ Village STEM Academy (GVSA), I am honored to work alongside Ms. Magana and her team to bring Monthly Multilingual Families Empowerment and Networking Nights. These events are open to the entire school community, focusing on encouraging multilingual and immigrant families to connect with each other and ensuring that families are connected with the necessary resources. Here’s the scope and sequence:

  • October: families engaged in an activity to share more information about themselves and their families, heard school updates, and connected with International House.
  • November: families conversed with Common Wealth Charlotte on credit building. 
  • December: families learned about the home-buying process by connecting with various professionals, including Skyla Credit Union, State Employee’s Credit Union, Movement Mortgage, and Next Home Authorities.
  • January: families learned about upcoming assessments and how they can support their students with testing.
  • February: we took advantage of “I Love to Read” Month and showed families how they can support their students’ literacy and academic success. 
  • March: as we’re gearing up for EOG, families will learn about the end-of-year exams and how to best set up their scholars for success. 

The above topics were informed by families’ needs and situations. Insights were based on the school’s family empowerment pre-survey, with a completion rate of just under 30%, and families requested support with physical health and exercise resources, mental health services, financial education, access to technology, and food access. After each family night, we gathered exit ticket feedback to hear directly from the families who attended the Multilingual Families Empowerment and Networking Night. 

Families are able to have their individual questions answered by speaking directly with each community partner.

One of the benefits of creating this space for immigrant families to come together is creating a supportive community. By fostering a sense of belonging, GVSA is helping immigrant families feel more integrated into the broader educational community. Additionally, these events serve as a catalyst for encouraging parents from multilingual families to actively participate in their children’s education. Below are just a few testimonials families have expressed from these nights:

  • “[I found it most helpful] to get information about PowerSchool and hear information about afterschool programs.”
  • “[I loved] all the information and details about the school, and the family partnership.”
  • “The presentation was well conceived and well delivered in accessible ways!”
  • “It was lovely, personable, and succinct!”
  • “Exposing students to different cultures by allowing them to see representation within their school family.”

Because it’s immigrant families’ first time navigating the education system, it’s especially important we educate families on the basics of navigating our education system and help them understand school policies. This is foundational to encourage families to advocate for their students, the school community, and the educational system. Other resources and guidance that these events can offer include college preparation, career exploration, academic support, and more. By continuing to host these monthly events, families are walking in and out of the building more empowered, students feel more supported, and teachers are better connected with the community. Additionally, this empowerment allows immigrant families to pave the way for those who come after them, establishing changes that would positively impact school communities. 

Action Items:

  • What has worked in your school or community when engaging and connecting with immigrant families? Drop us a note in the comments, we would love to hear from you!
  • Interested in bringing our data-driven family empowerment model to your school or organization? Reach out to Jia at jia@schermcofoundation.org.

¹ Five facts on immigration in Charlotte and North Carolina. WFAE. https://www.wfae.org/race-equity/2023-09-20/five-facts-on-immigration-in-charlotte-and-north-carolina

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