Diving Deep in the Zone
Cultural Competence Is Key to Family and Community Engagement

Institute of Education Sciences/U.S. Department of Education
Adapted By: Anthony Lopez, Executive Director, Zone 126 
In every marginalized community, education continues to be the significant route towards the way out of poverty. It’s time for administrators, teachers and staff developers to build awareness of how their beliefs and assumptions about local families influence their interactions with them and to understand how their school’s demographics inform what might support or hinder their efforts to engage more families in their schools.

Including families and communities in schools is about building authentic ongoing relationships, meaningful interactions and two-way communications between educators, families and community members. In particular, families living in public housing, may have a harder time interacting with their schools because of:

  • Parents or other family members did not do well in school or educators told parents what they should do without acknowledging what they might already be doing;
  • Cultural barriers that have parents or their representatives believe they should defer to educators;
  • Limited professional development and training of educators in family and community engagement;
  • Educators’ own cultural beliefs and attitudes.

If educators believe that parents will do little to support a child’s education at home, educators may not reach out to the family and will have lower expectations of the student. Viewing interactions from families’ perspectives help educators work more effectively with them. It’s equally important for educators to consider how they will provide information to families in a multicultural environment. Sensitivity to cultural differences will help prevent roadblocks that keep members of the school community from working together.

To reveal deep unspoken and unconscious influences of cultural beliefs and actions, educators should understand the dynamics of the “Iceberg concept of culture.” Like an iceberg, the largest share of cultural influences are found below the surface:
Pipeline Update
Attendance Matters Early On
By: Denise Catlyn, Attendance Success Mentor Coordinator at PS 171Q
Hi my name is Denise Catlyn, and I’m the new Zone 126 Attendance Coordinator Success Mentor at PS 171Q. Prior to beginning my role I worked for NYC Department of Education for over 15 years with children in the Astoria/Long Island City community. I am very excited to be supporting the students and parents of PS 171Q this school year as we try to combat chronic absenteeism.

My primary role and responsibility as an Attendance Success Mentor Coordinator is to decrease chronic absenteeism and to make sure every student has an equal opportunity to learn and thrive by being in school every day. My daily tasks include monitoring students’ daily attendance and making morning phone calls to parents or guardians of absent students. Part of my role is also to mentor students daily and conduct home visits to provide additional support to students and families. My mission for this school year is to make strong connections with students and families, and to help students feel supported and engaged, improve their daily attendance and celebrate their successes. I want everyone including students, families, teachers, the community amongst others to know how important attendance is and that it matters early on beginning in Pre-Kindergarten. 
Denis Catlyn, Attendance Success Mentor Coordinator at PS 171Q holding up a Zone 126 Attendance Matters Door Hanger)
Family, Friends, Food & Fun=Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration
By: Katherine Ray, M.S.Ed-Community School Director at PS 171Q
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Zone 126 and PS 171Q hosted a celebration for students and their families on Tuesday, October 15 th . The event was a successful collaboration between Zone 126, City Year and PS 171Q staff to commemorate the various contributions of Latinx individuals to our country.

Students eagerly gathered in the cafeteria to listen to first-grade teacher Ms. Carrion read aloud from the bilingual book My Name is Celia/Me Llamo Celia about the Cuban superstar vocalist Celia Cruz by Monica Bown. After the reading a variety of music selections were played by popular Latinx artists, including Celia Cruz herself. City Year members joined in by helping to serve up to students, families and traditional Latinx cuisine that included empanadas, maduros, tamales, along with rice and beans.

PS 171Q’s Universal Literacy Coach Mr. Lunz led students in literacy-based games while others danced and enjoyed the music. Several raffles took place during the event where parents won books by Latinx authors and games to take home and enjoy with their children. Thanks to our friends at Hispanic Federation, we were able to hand out Circo Hermanos Vasquez tickets for a future performance at Citi Field. Everyone had a wonderful time as we celebrated the diversity of our school community together. 
Ms. Carrion reading to a group of students at the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration; (m) preparations for the celebration; (r) delicious Latinx treats being served at the celebration) 
Young Adult’s Succeed
By: Michelle Makabali, Community School Director at Long Island City High School
High school can be a very stressful time in in a student’s life between adolescence, classes, exams, and planning for the future. Junior year in particular introduces a new level of intensity as students begin planning to take the SAT examination, and look into colleges to attend.

Since the Spring of 2016 through our Community School efforts, we have been working in collaboration with Let’s Get Ready to implement their SAT Prep program. The program model pairs college students with small groups of students in the 11 th grade to coach them on tips, tricks, and strategies so they can successfully complete the exam to the best of their ability. Our students who live in and around the Zone qualify for free or reduced price lunch (a qualifying indicator of low-income), access to expensive SAT Prep courses such as Kaplan or Princeton Review are often out of reach for most. Through the Let’s Get Ready program students are able to access high quality support that begins to level the playing field with their higher in come peers.

In Fall 2019, we were excited to see over 135 juniors inquire about SAT prep. For nine weeks, students will dedicate two nights a week for a total of six hours a week on college prep and readiness. One student involved in the program this year by the name of Leah said “I did not realize the importance of the SAT until I began researching for colleges and what types of scores are required to attend some schools. I feel lucky because the program is free for all anyone, and both my family and I are comfortable that this is an after-school program that is held at my school building.”

What makes this collaboration run smoothly is the partnership buy-in from Let’s Get Ready, Long Island City High School and Zone 126 that are focused on supporting the needs of the students who need these services the most. Ms. Wang a Long Island City High School teacher who stays after-school to support the programs implementation says “It is wonderful to see our students, especially new immigrants who have financial hardships take advantage of this program. It is great to hear the peer-to-peer conversations about life goals and how to obtain them. It is truly amazing to see this work come alive for our students and how it really does impact their future lives.”

This opportunity has provided an experience for our high students to think of college as a reality for them and not something abstract. Our fall cohort will culminate by taking the scheduled December SAT and we are in preparation to welcome the new Spring 2020 cohort.
Jeimy Portillo, Program Coordinator and (r) Michelle A. Makabali, Community School Director at the Let’s Get Ready registration table signing students up for programming)
Home Visits Build the Home-School Connection
By: Andre T. Stith, Organizing Director at Long Island City High School 
On Monday, June 17, incoming freshmen and their families joined the LICHS staff in the academies for Wellness Education and Humanities and Urban Culture to learn more about the school and get a head start to the next four years of their academic lives. Families were greeted by Assistant Principal Argyris and then escorted to their corresponding academy. Once they received their info packets and beautiful LICHS swag, families were able to grab some treats and chat with the Parent Coordinators before learning about LICHS' Summer Bridge Program.
Summer Bridge is a six-week academic program for incoming 9 th grade students who want to stay active over the summer and earn three elective credits in English, math and science. This program allows students to become comfortable in a larger school environment before the year officially starts in September. By meeting other classmates, engaging with the rigorous curriculum, and getting to know teachers’ expectations along with touring the school, students feel increasingly comfortable with being in high school. Summer Bridge students receive breakfast, lunch, snacks, have weekly raffles to promote attendance, and attend field trips. The Zone 126 table was a very popular spot Monday evening for both students and their parents. 
This holiday season we are looking to distribute 500 books by December 15 to help build a child’s home library one book at a time. 
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We would like to thank all of our funders for their support: Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi Foundation, US Department of Education, New York City Department of Education, Altman Foundation, Blue Buffalo Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation, and Phyllis Backer Foundation.