Engagement and Empowerment at Walt Whitman Elementary

waltwhitmanelementary_websitePTA members and volunteers like Walt Whitman Elementary School PTA President Sue Salorio are true change-agents, creating local programs that go on to touch – and engage – entire communities.

Walt Whitman Elementary in San Diego (Ninth District PTA) held its first-ever School Smarts Parent Engagement Program last school year. Salorio, a home-hospital special-education teacher and School Smarts parent graduate, worked alongside other parents to develop an action plan designed to increase family engagement on-campus. The result…a new parent center scheduled to debut in late January 2016.

“Parents really wanted someplace where they could go get more information on how to help their student with homework and understanding the new state standards,” Salorio said. “Some of our parents are not English speakers, so we wanted a place where we could offer to learn how to speak English on the computer, as well as a place to be used for students and families who do not have Internet access at home.”

Salorio noted that, while parents received key support from school personnel, the families are fully engaged in leading the effort.

“Parents take the lead as to how the plan is going to be rolled out,” she said, noting that PTA members regularly meet with the principal and other staff to ensure the process is moving forward smoothly for all involved.

“Parents worked together as a team to decide what they wanted the new parent center to be,” added San Diego Unified Council PTA President Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki. “The center is becoming a symbol of how parents can be part of a grassroots effort and demonstrates the impact of what parent involvement can do for a school.”

As Salorio and the school community gear up for the parent center’s January 2016 grand opening, PTA members and School Smarts graduates are planning even more activities to strengthen family and community engagement. To create similar engagement changes, Salorio encourages other PTAs to work with schools as best allies and to start with a plan and keep communication going for team success.

And her encouragement for parents?

“Come and be the change you want to see!”