Spotlight on EdCC: Parent Mentor Program nurtures volunteers

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Adjunct faculty member Christina Coira spoke recently at an EdCC Foundation meeting.

Imagine having your family uprooted and moved to a new country. You don’t speak the language, but you take language classes in the evening and are grateful to find an entry-level job to pay bills. Your son attends a local school, and one day he comes home with a note that you cannot decipher. What do you do?

If you live in the Edmonds Community College service area, then you have access to a wonderful resource: Parent Mentors.

According to Christina Coiro, adjunct faculty in Social and Health Services, Parent Mentors are a dedicated group of volunteers who help newcomer and minority families ease the adjustment to learning new systems, language, and culture. The mentors are natural leaders who work in schools, Head Start, and state early childhood education and assistance programs to provide a bridge between home and schools. The mentors are often bilingual and bi-cultural.

The Parent Mentor Program, according to Coiro, provides benefits to the community, but also helps the volunteers develop their own talents and careers. Volunteers can learn to become a family support worker or a family advocate for any household. They receive extra support to enhance their own English reading, writing, and speaking skills. They receive assistance with financial aid, child care, or food stamps, and they may use campus services including the Counseling and Resource Center, Career Action Center, and Learning Support Center for writing and tutoring.

Now, back to the start of this story, where you imagined being new to a country and your son brought home a note that you could understand. If your newcomer community had a Parent Mentor, then you could take the note to her and find out what you need to do next. The Parent Mentor would be your liaison and guiding helper.

One way for applicants to become part of the EdCC Parent Mentor program is through school districts and Head Start/ECEAP programs, and if you know of someone who is a leader and would be a good connector for newcomer and minority families, you can let Christina Coira know via email at ccoiro@edcc.edu. To find out more about the EdCC Parent Mentor program, see the website here.

-Janette Turner

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