Guatemalan native Lilyan Prado Carrillo held a photo of her father, J. Luis Prado, and said she could not have done anything in her life without him.
“When I was in elementary school at Borman, I would hear people say, oh pobrecita [poor thing], her mother left her, oh pobrecita, this or that. … ” Prado said. “But my dad never made me feel like I was a pobrecita. He always told me I had lots to offer.”
Prado, an alumna of Texas Woman’s University and now program director of financial aid at the University of North Texas, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural parent conference held Saturday morning at Calhoun Middle School.
The purpose of the conference, entitled “Building Bridges to Success,” was to inform parents of how they could become more involved in their children’s education.
“By drawing parents in today, we can help educate them about the importance they play in the success of their children,” said Mia Price, Denton’s school board president.
The conference presented by community volunteers from a newly formed group called Denton PUENTE — Partners United for Excellence in North Texas Education — and members of the Denton school district and area universities, drew an estimated 150 people.
Parents from each grade level attended sessions dealing with topics such as bullying, the importance of bilingual education, how to pay for college, immigration, special education and others.
A total of 24 sessions held in Spanish and in English were presented during the conference.
“This is a history-making event. It was the first time we had a conference like this,” said Rudy Rodriguez, a school board member. “This conference was open to all parents, but we were particularly targeting Latino parents.”
Mayra Uribe, one of the conference attendees, said in Spanish she wanted to find out how to support her 7-year-old in reading and writing. She also said she learned a lot from going to a session about making a difference in her child’s life by volunteering.
Uribe has not volunteered at her child’s school, Evers Park Elementary, but after attending the sessions, she wanted to find out what she can do.
Another attendee, Maria Sandra Uriastegui, a mother of a 12-year-old attending Calhoun, said it was the first time she attended a parent conference.
“I learned about drugs and alcohol and how that could affect them,” she said. “I think it is a good thing to have a conference like this, where we could all be informed.”
Tim Sánchez, sponsor of Denton High School’s PALS program and physics instructor, said the PUENTE community members began meeting last summer.
“Through our conversations, we found we had many resources and we could help each other and help our community,” he said.
Teresa Luna Taylor, director of bilingual ESL programs, said the group’s goal is to help the community excel by creating leaders, and that began with events like the inaugural conference.
“I think this event is fabulous for all the community and for all of the stakeholders,” Luna said. “We are building our future and we are very passionate about that.”
At the end of the conference, parents were asked to submit a survey and provide comments and suggestions expressing their needs.
“The thing that we are hoping to take from this is to recruit five to 10 families and do a parent academy and build an infrastructure in our community,” Sanchez said. “It angers me when I hear people say that Latino parents do not want to get involved. Oh yes they do. They might just not know how.”
KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.