Grantee update: ELPASO improves early learning outcomes, advances educational equity

It’s been two years since your Community Foundation’s School Readiness Initiative spun off ELPASO (Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes) – a movement conceived and launched at the foundation to educate and empower Latino parents toward improved early learning outcomes for their children.

In that time, and since becoming a 501(c)(3), ELPASO has catalyzed partnerships with other nonprofits and agencies, and mobilized resources to ignite action around educational equity for Boulder County kids.
“Our mission is to create a critical mass of Latino parents who are well informed and skilled to help their children enter kindergarten ready to learn,” says ELPASO Executive Director Tere Garcia. 
“We involve parents at the most basic level of child growth and development, before their children enter the public education system. We believe that – if ELPASO connects Latino parents to information, knowledge, and advocacy skills – they’ll expand the movement to help other Latino parents ensure their children enter kindergarten at grade-level, thereby narrowing the achievement gap.” 
Since ELPASO become an indepdenent nonprofit, it has launched two programs under its umbrella: ELPASO Voz (“voice”) and ELPASO Éxito (“success”).
“ELPASO Voz brings together Latino parents who are interested in looking at factors outside the home that may create barriers to their children’s performance in school, like getting bullied,” explains Tere, who’s also a teacher with 35 years’ experience under her belt. “The beauty of ELPASO Voz is that parents tell us the issues they’re concerned about … including not feeling welcome in their children’s schools. 
“Then, we provide the research and information they need to approach schools and initiate positive, informed discussions to strengthen the systems in place to better deal with bullying, and more. At the same time, while our Latino parents look to schools to fulfill their responsibilities, they also look to themselves and the improvements they can make in the home to stop or avert such bad behaviors as bullying … and other barriers on behalf of their children.” 
In sum, ELPASO assumes the premise that Latino parents are on the frontlines, holding the key to ensuring their children are ready for kindergarten. The ELPASO movement also recognizes that parents are often the only stakeholders to ensure that school and community leaders support and fund relevant interventions for improved early childhood outcomes. 
To date, ELPASO has reached more than 1,900 families through its School Readiness Coordinators that present parents with facts about childhood development and the achievement gap in Boulder County. During parent trainings, quality, bilingual childcare is provided.
“It’s a learning opportunity for our little kiddos, provided by 12 highly trained childcare providers. We have wonderful partnerships with WOW! Children’s Museum and SPAN [Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, also a foundation grantee] to help us provide science learning and art therapy for children while their parents participate in ELPASO Éxito.” 
Adds an ELPASO parent leader, “I now see myself as a mentor and guide for other women in my community in providing advice for how to parent their children.” In other words, mission accomplished.