On September 4, 2013, Parents Step Ahead (PSA) embarked on its annual Ambassadors trip to Washington, DC to reward six teachers and school administrators for their hard work in advancing the mission of Parents Step Ahead. The Ambassadors initiative was created by Parents Step Ahead with the support of Educational Testing Service (ETS) in 2009 in order to include those on the front lines of education in increasing parental involvement in schools that typically see low levels of parental participation. PSA Ambassadors, a group of over 500 teachers and administrators who work closely with Parents Step Ahead, engage parents through phone calls and marketing outreach and provide guidance to PSA about its programs. Each year, PSA awards several Ambassadors with an educational trip to DC at the organization’s annual gala in December. This year’s trip was sponsored by ETS, National Education Association (NEA), LATINA Style Inc., El Hispano News, Capital Hilton and board members Richard P. Montañez and Betty Uribe.
The five-day trip began with the 10th National LATINA Symposium (NLS), sponsored by LATINA Style Magazine, where the Ambassadors attended panels on leadership and student empowerment. There, through engaging with experts in education, business and government, the Ambassadors were inspired to bring the valuable lessons they learned back to their schools and communities.
“One thing that I will take back with me is seeing one of the panelists talk about mentoring,” said Lissette Cruz, PSA ambassador and Teacher of the Year for Anson Jones Middle School in San Antonio, TX, on NLS. “As teachers, that’s something that we really need for our students to be engaged and have that relationship.”
Following NLS, the Ambassadors met with ETS, NEA and the U.S. Department of Education. Through these meetings, the Ambassadors candidly shared their experiences with increasing parental involvement and detailed the educational issues that they continue to face in their schools and communities. In exchange, each high-level organization explained the resources that they provide teachers and administrators to help make their experiences in the classroom most effective.
“ETS’s relationship with Parents Step Ahead is a natural fit, given our mission of advancing quality and equity in education. Parents Step Ahead is making a difference in the lives of so many students and their families by empowering them with the tools and knowledge they need for academic success. The Parents Step Ahead model is one that is receiving wide acclaim, with requests to bring the program to other parts of the state of Texas, as well as to cities/school districts in other states. Helping to replicate programs that are achieving successful outcomes is one of the goals of the ETS Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy, and we are excited about the opportunity to help Parents Step Ahead bring its program to scale so that others can experience what is already taking place in the Dallas area and in San Antonio.”
“Few things are as rewarding for us at ETS as meeting the Teacher Ambassadors and learning firsthand about their many successes in engaging parents and guardians in the education and personal development of children,” said Frank Gómez, Strategic Alliances and Public Affairs Executive for ETS and board member of Parents Step Ahead.
The Ambassadors also had the opportunity to tour the Capitol and various monuments and museums to stimulate lesson plans for the upcoming school year. The six PSA Ambassadors who participated in this year’s DC Leadership Program are as follows:
- Lissette Cruz – Teacher of the Year, Anson Jones Middle School (San Antonio, TX)
- Annabel Vias – Teacher, Cable Elementary (San Antonio, TX)
- Jonisha McCurdy – Teacher, Faith Family Academy (Dallas, TX)
- Agnes Douglas – Teacher, Faith Family Academy (Dallas, TX)
- Richard Alvarado – Vice Principal, Bussey Middle School (Garland, TX)
- Pat Mullins – Family Enrichment Facilitator & Volunteer Coordinator, Garland ISD ( invited guest Garland, TX)