Educated parents make successful students

After dropping off their children at Santa Monica Blvd. Community Charter School (SMBCCS), many parents also take advantage of the learning offered at the school’s Parent Center.

SMBCCS, founded in 2012, is a direct funded independent convergent charter school. This means that they work autonomously from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which authorizes the function of autonomous schools.

Approximately 97% of SMBCCS students are Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged. This semester there are about 800 students in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. More than 50% are English learners who have not been in the country for many years with their families, mainly from Central America.

The Parent Center was created with the aim of empowering and educating parents who have the opportunity to learn classes in English, computers, mental health, citizenship, cooking and Zumba, explained Johana Juárez, director of the program.

Juárez said she identifies a lot with the parents since she is also a Honduran immigrant who came to the United States when she was a teenager. She eventually got her higher education with her master’s degree in early childhood education.

She is a teacher of children and adults but really enjoys working with parents.

“I saw that there was a need because in the schools they only gave a little talk to the parents and invited them to have coffee with bread, but I think that this was not so necessary for the parents. They needed to learn and have skills to help their children”, explained the educator.

Classes are offered on a hybrid basis. (Courtesy)

He noticed that sometimes when there were translators they did not translate the message correctly. So she took it upon herself to empower and educate parents.

“The strength of the schools is the parents,” he stressed. “So I feel that parents should not only be brought to meetings when needed, but should be taught to be better for them to help their children,” Juarez stressed.

parents learn

Several classes are hybrid—in person or online—and English classes are offered four times a week.

Among the benefited parents is Mrs. Nancy Ajche, who arrives every morning with her little 2-year-old daughter after dropping her son off at school.

Ajche emigrated from her native Guatemala four years ago with her son who was about to start kindergarten. Once settled in Los Angeles, she met the SMBCCS where they not only received the child but also her in the parent center.

“At that time I came to register and I’ve been here four years now,” Ajche said.

She said her husband, who studied English at community college, encouraged her to learn the language too, and now she is proud of her progress.

“When I came [a Estados Unidos] I didn’t recognize any words in English, and I had to translate all the teacher’s instructions in order to help my child,” said Ajche. “Now I no longer use a translator to help him do his homework.”

Another mother of a participating family is Gladys Sarmiento, who also arrived from Guatemala eight years ago in Los Angeles with her three children.

She also didn’t speak a word of English but it was thanks to the parent center that she has already been able to learn more of the language.

“Before, it took us three or four hours to do homework with the three children, but as we learned English in the parent center, we took less and less time,” said Sarmiento. “My children got excited and told me ‘you also have homework’ and that motivated us a lot. Ms. Johana is in charge of taking care of us academically, mentally, fiscally she covers many areas”.

She is currently taking the classes online because the family had to move to Lincoln Heights and it is no longer possible for her to attend the center in person, but she did not want to leave either.

Proud said that the effort has paid off as her eldest daughter is about to graduate from college in marketing and the second is in her first year of college and is studying to be a judge translator and the youngest is in grade 6.

Mrs. Carla Lara was also in the online classes, who arrived from El Salvador in 2018 with her 6-year-old son and her eight-month-old baby. She came across SMBCCS and enrolled her son in second grade.

“My boy didn’t know any English and neither did I,” Lara said.

She was grateful to have found out through Juárez, who in the morning is in charge of distributing flyers to inform parents about the parent center and the classes that are offered free of charge.

“I had an eight-month-old baby and I asked Ms. Johana if I could take her and she said yes, and that’s how I started. Now my boy is already in sixth grade and my daughter started kindergarten this year at Santa Monica School.”

Parents who have been part of the center for many years are also in the classes. Among them is Verónica Robelo who started attending when her children were young and they all went to SMCCS. She participated in the center for a while, then stopped going for a while and recently returned again.

What makes him most proud is that one of his daughters, who went to that school, is now part of the school staff.

The SMCCS Parent Center provides classes for parents of children enrolled in the school as well as community stakeholders. For more information call (323) 957-5133.