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Van Delivers Education, Info for Hard-to-Reach Parents

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To reach out to parents in Rancho Cordova, Calif., a van equipped with laptops and WiFi, a Smartboard, books, and binders visits public schools and the local library.

Dubbed the Parent Resource Outreach Mobile (PROM), it is staffed by an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who helps connect parents with information and tools they can use—and ultimately connects them with one another.

"We're looking for parents in the district who, for instance, don't speak English as their first language, are low-income and might not have connections or other friends in the district," says Melanie Wallace, PROM and events coordinator for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District's Parent Engagement Project. Many of the van's visitors speak Spanish or Russian.

"Often, these parents don't have the confidence to voice their opinion or volunteer at school district events. We want to get them engaged to let them know about all the different programs that are available for them," she said.

The goals are to help parents meet their needs—and their families' needs—whether it is for employment or housing opportunities. Beyond that, PROM is a way to connect them with one another and the public schools their children attend, so they will feel comfortable inside school. In fact, some parents who visited the van have become employed by the district, helping out in classrooms.

This is the third year the van has been making its rounds—at least 10 stops a month in conjunction with school events that attract parents—and the team monitors usage statistics carefully.

For instance, in one recent month 38 parents utilized the PROM's services. They were primarily interested in employment information and parenting classes, but also asked for information about other subjects such as anger management classes, employment for teens, and teen parenting classes.

Learn more about the PROM, and the Parent Engagement Program, on the Folsom Cordova Unified School District site.

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