It takes a village to raise a child. This is true. However, the foundation of the village is the family. The Family Engagement for High School Success project of United Way of Southern Cameron County and the Los Fresnos CISD works with students, families and the community to give struggling students a chance.
Here on the border our culture places family first. Any attempt to improve student performance must be family-based to be successful. Families, though, sometimes feel disengaged from the school system, particularly at the secondary level. Families want to help, but they may lack necessary information about high school. This is where the project comes in.
When Ivonne entered 9th grade at the Los Fresnos United 9th Grade Campus she had behavior issues because of problems at home. Her issues were so debilitating that she was at-risk of not being on track to graduate from high school on time. The program assigned her a Family Coordinator, who is charged with working with the school, families and community organizations to ensure that at-risk students graduate on time. The Family Coordinator stays with the student and his or her family through the high school years--a key component of the strategy. The position was originally funded by a grant from AT&T Aspire.
Today Ivonne is a new young woman. She volunteers to assist the Family Coordinator and her teachers, and she is developing clerical skills through her volunteer service. Ivonne's grades have gone from 50s to the honor roll. She now accepts her mother's guidance and participates more in social activities with her family. Previously, Ivonne had never talked about going to college. She now expresses a desire to attend college and become a counselor like Mrs. Pereira, her Family Coordinator.
Since adding the Family Coordinator position, the project has seen a 45 percent improvement in student academic performance and a 25 percent improvement in attendance within the target population when compared to previous cohorts who had the same risk factors. Increased family involvement in students' high school experiences has empowered families with new knowledge and skills and is already yielding benefits for students.