By Staff Reports
(Adelanto)– 900 well-wishers filled the multi-purpose room of Columbia Middle School, with bouquets of flowers and cameras in hand. The crowd celebrated the 378 Adelanto parents who completed the Parent Engagement Education Program. The 9-week course was created to empower parents to take the initiative in their children’s education and is one of several programs offered by non-profit Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE).
Opening the event, Superintendent Dr. Lily Matos DeBlieux proclaimed, “This is one of my dreams, and you made it happen!” Echoed in speeches and comments throughout the night, parent empowerment is at the center of the PIQE initiative. The program touches on topics ranging from how to create a positive learning environment at home, to understanding which classes and tests students need to complete to compete for college entrance. Armed with this new knowledge, parents can set their students up for success, even at a very young age.
Gains could be seen by parents and educators quickly. West Side Park Elementary School Principal Adriana Pantoja noted that within a few weeks, student attitudes toward studying were changing. “One student, who had been struggling, proudly told his teacher that his mom had set up a little table for him at home at which to study,” she said. And, after parents learned more about a matrix to better manage a healthy schedule for their students, she noted that a student who routinely fell asleep in class before noon was arriving alert and eager to learn.
While the bulk of the parents’ time in the program was devoted to learning, the graduation ceremony itself is an important component. Each parent-class at each school in the district nominated one parent to speak for them at graduation. The speeches were impassioned, showing that parents are taking a leadership role in their children’s education. Graduating parent Viawanda Cole thought it was important to celebrate the milestone. “I think that whenever you reach a personal growth milestone in your life, it is important to celebrate and acknowledge that. It unifies the community and shows we are involved in education.”
Chico Garza, Community Liaison for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, said of the turnout at the graduation, “I think it is amazing, incredible. A testament to the hunger that the parents have to empower themselves. They want the big dreams for their students. They’re looking for help to be the parents they’ve always wanted to be. Their intentions are there and this gives them the skills, the tools to do it.”
One graduating parent, Ronald Atkins, who has four teenage students, felt the biggest value of the program was to let the students know, “We are behind them. They are not standing out there all alone.” For Esperanza Vasquez, mother of a 5 and 8 year old, one of the biggest values was, “learning how to motivate our kids to go to college and university. The PIQE program really makes us believe that our kids can graduate from university.”
Among the names called during the ceremony were a number of mother and father teams and grandparents stepping in to raise grandchildren. Raul Ochoa and Melissa Soto have three children, ages 6, 9 and 12. Said Ochoa, “The program was way more informative than I thought it would be. To me, this graduation ceremony is a culmination of all that we studied. And the program has given us a sense of security, now that we know what our kids need to go to college.” Added Soto, “Now we know what type of classes to look for, even in middle school.”
A statement by PIQE Executive Director Lillian Hernandez summarized the power of the graduation ceremony Friday night in her advice to the graduates. “Get a nice frame for your diploma. Put it on the best wall in your home and hang an extra nail next to it. When your son or daughter asks you what it is for, tell them it is for their diploma when they graduate from high school and go on to college.” The expectation has been set. Anything is possible in the Adelanto Elementary School District.