Video featuring parents encourages more to get involved

“I am Godwin,” said parent Kristina Berry.

“I am Godwin,” said parent Glenn Tran.

“I am Godwin,” said parent Serida Scott.

“Soy Godwin,” said parent Veronica Soto.

Parents’ voices unite in an uplifting video that shares their experiences in the district and encourages others to get involved.

Veronica Soto said she benefits from being involved at Godwin schools and helps serve as a liaison to other Spanish-speaking parents

Godwin Heights is celebrating parents’ involvement in everything from helping their children with homework to volunteering in schools and in athletics. The district’s Parent Action Council, which includes parents and staff members, recently created the video for the district website.

Goals of the PAC are to engage parents in their children’s education, increase achievement among English learners and connect families and children with school and community resources.

“We want to be able to support parents and for them to feel empowered. We value that relationship,” said Director of Instruction Michelle Krynicki.

Soto, mom to Marla, a senior; Carlos, a seventh-grader; and Valeria, a third-grader; is happy to help spread the message.

“We, as parents, are mirrors and we reflect the importance to our kids in setting examples,” she said, translated from Spanish by Lysette Castillo, the district’s parent and community liaison. Soto is known as a “star volunteer,” regularly lending a hand at the high school, middle school and North Godwin Elementary School.

Parents are encouraged to volunteer even if they don’t speak English, which is a common barrier that can cause parents to feel intimidated, Krynicki said.

“You don’t have to be here every day, but can you be a reading buddy? Can you make copies and put packets together? Could you put labels on fliers? There are lots of ways to be involved.”

From left, Duane Bacchus, high school Kent School Services Network community coordinator, and Lysette Castillo, the district’s parent and community liaison, talk with Veronica Soto during a Parent Action Council meeting

Powerful Voices

With filming by Duane Bacchus, high school Kent School Services Network community coordinator, and Noah DeSmit, who works in the Grand Rapids Community College media department, parents in the video speak about the  benefits of being involved, for themselves and their children. A diverse group, they represent the multi-cultural district.

“We have some parents who are very involved. We feel like they experience a great benefit from being involved,” Bacchus said, about the idea for the video. “The discussion came up, ‘What can do to get more parents to experience what these parents now do?

“Someone spoke up: ‘We need to get those parents to speak out. We need to get them to share their stories. … Let’s get parents to have a voice.”

“I’ve benefited because I’m more involved with what’s going on in school,” Soto said. “I know what’s going on and I’ve been able to collaborate and get to know the staff and the people in the school.”

Castillo said Soto serves an important role for the district as a conduit to other Spanish-speaking parents. “She is the informed that informs the rest,” Castillo said.  “The parents talk to her and she brings it to us.”

Martha Ibanez, mother of Jose, a sophomore; Emma, a fourth-grader; and Kevin, a third-grader, is also a great example of a parent who makes a difference in the schools, staff members said. While too shy to be in the video, she helped plan it as a member of the PAC.

“My children are aware I’m present, and even though I don’t speak English the school finds a way to communicate everything going on,” she said. “It has benefited me to be more informed about what’s going on in their education.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2012. Read Erin's full bio

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