Café con Flor brings together Spanish-speaking caregivers to help them better connect with their child’s school
Café con Flor are parent gatherings that happen twice a month. The purpose of Café con Flor is to create and strengthen the sense of community between Spanish-speaking parents and schools and to inform parents of programs and resources that support the growth of academically minded students and healthier families. The Kearns group has been meeting since February of 2022 and has grown from meeting at Flor’s house to gathering at local community locations, such as the library, nearby schools, and the park, depending on the topic.
My Initial Research Projects
As a grassroots organizer at United Way of Salt Lake, I got to conduct research projects with my Kearns community during the spring of 2022. I wanted to understand and learn from community members how they really wanted to be involved in their children’s schools and their perspectives on School Community Council (SCC), PTA, and other existing places for engagement and volunteer opportunities. I started my research project by asking, “How do Latinx parents and caregivers in Kearns want to be engaged with the schools in Kearns?” For those that had been involved with SCC, parents expressed that information from the school has been made more accessible, relationship building with staff is easier, and, in some cases, they have been able to obtain employment with their children’s schools. Other Spanish-speaking parents shared they would like opportunities to participate and be involved in the school to develop a sense of community. They believed it would give their children the extra motivation to thrive and do better academically and behaviorally. Parents shared they were interested in being involved in the School Community Council and the Parent Teacher Association, however language, meeting times, and the lack of clarity around the purpose of the groups, roles, and benefits of these groups are barriers to their participation. I decided to go back and share these findings, in the form of a parent café. I held the first “Cafe con Flor,” in my home. With the support of Alma Delgadillo, the Family Engagement Coordinator, I got to share the information with West Kearns Elementary in late March. Spanish-speaking community members and local parents were invited.
Creating Increased BIPOC Parent Involvement in Schools
I shared with the parents who attended Café con Flor, the various perspectives and experiences of parents in school committees along with information about the benefits of being involved, roles within PTA or school committees, and other opportunities for getting involved at local schools. From this, Mariana, a parent, joined the Community Council at the junior high where her student attended. The principal was very supportive by welcoming her in and always providing translation. Mariana would like to continue joining these spaces; however, she is concerned that since the administration has changed in her school, they will no longer be as accepting. We have sat down and will be submitting recommendations to the school and school community council to continue making these spaces accessible for Spanish-speaking parents and other parents to join.
Recommendations for Schools to Increase BIPOC participation:
- Go out of normal meeting hours to accommodate working parents
- Include BIPOC in decision-making spaces
- Provide translation (for in-person attendees and all hand-out materials)
- Have someone willing to explain the material (if needed)
I reached out to the family engagement center in our local community school for support in spreading the word about Café con Flor. After looping in the principal and sharing our purpose and intentions they agreed to host our first school Café con Flor in late April of 2022. This helped me gain trust with the community and more parents began attending. One of our successful cafés was held at the high school. Parents had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a school administrator, the school principal, and counselors. From this, parents were able to get the information they needed relating to attendance and how parents could better support students with maintaining high school credits on track to graduation.
Café con Flor also invites other folks to present or share resources and information they may have to benefit our communities. In our most recent monthly meeting, Granite Energy held focus groups where they asked for parents’ perspectives on pollution, which would later inform their proposal for 100% renewable energy in the Granite District. We also invited Raquel Ruiz, to share resources found at the public library that are free to the community.
An important aspect of Café con Flor is letting the parents lead out on the topics we discuss and the events we do. For our 4th café, after listening to our community’s concerns, we invited a local community member to speak and share her knowledge on bullying. Thelma Van-San is an amazing community asset to our community –advocating, supporting, and sharing knowledge where she can. She held 2 successful engagement cafés at the Kearns local public library with 24 participants in total. Thelma has now partnered to support her local high school as the Kearns PTA President.
Another great parent-led event was our end-of-summer party. At the end of our café in July, parents– led by Reyna Marquez– met at Magna Regional Park to celebrate the end of summer and the new school year. Reyna used the messaging platform WhatsApp to encourage parents to join. She also planned out meals and snacks for everyone to take and enjoy.
How to Create Your Own Café
If you would like to create your own parent café, I would encourage you to meet community members where they are at!
- Listen to your community and dive into topics that they are interested in (what is top of their mind)
- Use platforms they are already on; WhatsApp, messenger, or phone calls
- For comfort, meetings can occur in people’s homes or a mutual gathering space
- Provide snacks, incentives, or compensation when available
Goals for the future
I am encouraging other parents to take the lead in the café by providing facilitation support, structure with agendas, and connecting them to other institutions or organizations to partner with for the better of our communities. This summer, the work was focused here in Kearns. We are now moving to other neighborhoods to share our work and motivate other schools and communities to hold their own parent cafes.
By Flor Cuevas, Community Leadership Coordinator with United Way of Salt Lake