News from National Convention—Engaging Hispanic/Latino Families

National PTA ran the Hispanic/Latino Outreach Initiative from June 2018 to May 2019 in ten states to develop ways for PTAs to connect and engage with Hispanic/Latino families. The results of the initiative will be packaged in a toolkit for PTAs to use that will be released in early 2020. At the 2019 National PTA Convention, several participants shared what their state PTAs had learned from participation in the initiative.

The Hispanic/Latino Outreach Initiative had several goals.

  • Develop culturally-specific outreach strategies
  • Initiate Hispanic/Latino membership growth
  • Document successful strategies and identify opportunities
  • Create a toolkit for PTAs to use based on proven strategies

Hispanic/Latino outreach was identified as a critical population for PTA, as currently 1 in 4 students are Hispanic/Latino, while only 4% of state PTA boards are from that community. By 2050, 1 in 3 students are expected to be Hispanic/Latino.

Challenges with Hispanic/Latino Outreach

While language barriers are an easily identified challenge to reaching out to the Hispanic/Latino community, the initiative clearly noted that it is not the only one. “Family Engagement” is not common in Hispanic/Latino culture, as teachers are seen as the experts and speaking to a teacher is seen as questioning authority. Other challenges identified by the initiative include:

  • While the deference towards teachers is sometimes interpreted as Hispanic/Latino not caring about their child’s education, 92% of these parents think it is essential for their children to attend a two- or four-year college—the highest percentage of any demographic group.
  • 50% of Hispanic/Latino children have a parent that was born outside the United States, and 25% have an undocumented parent. To engage these families, PTAs must be trusted; however, once that trust is built, Hispanic/Latino families can be very loyal.
  • 78% of Hispanic/Latino parents who own a smartphone use it to access news and information. Consequently, it is important for PTAs to be mobile-friendly when reaching out to this population and realize that Hispanic/Latino families may prefer to receive texts rather than e-mails.
  • Non-standard work hours are common in the Hispanic/Latino community, 75% of Hispanic/Latino children in single-parent homes and 90% in two-parent homes having parents working non-standard hours. 40% of children with low-income parents work hours between 6:00pm and midnight, making it impossible to attend evening functions at school.

Reaching Out to the Hispanic/Latino Community

The Hispanic/Latino Outreach Initiative gave the state PTAs in the program the freedom to try many different approaches. Among the successful activities and lessons learned from the initiative are:

  • Don’t expect the Hispanic/Latino community to come to you; it is essential to figure out how to go to them. One successful approach with migrant farm workers was to meet with them during their lunch break in the fields, providing cold water to drink, and discussing and providing PTA family engagement resources so they can better support their child in school.
  • New Jersey PTA created a “Why PTA?” presentation in Spanish. One way to have materials translated is to reach out to the local Hispanic/Latino Chamber of Commerce (if there is one), as the business community is very interested in supporting these students and their families.
  • Take advantage of existing resources. New Jersey PTA put together a toolkit for local PTAs of what they considered the top 15 National PTA resources that are available in Spanish. They also included the English language versions as well so those PTA leaders who did not speak Spanish knew what topic each resource addressed. Don’t forget to take advantage of other organizations’ resources that are available in Spanish, such as Learning Heroes.
  • Don’t be afraid to have an event in Spanish rather than English. Washington PTA hosted a showing of the Spanish-language version of Frozenthat was a big success. As one leader put it, “Who doesn’t already know Frozenregardless of the language?”

Be sure to take advantage of the other National PTA resources to help you reach out to underrepresented communities, such as the Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit.