Tulalip students are in need of Natural Leaders

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

“When the schools and families have a mutual respect for one another and depend on one another as partners in education, the result is increased achievement.” That is a key line from Dr. Steve Constantino’s 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement.  For Tulalip, getting parents and families engaged in their students’ academic well-being remains a lofty goal. Local schools and many tribal service departments have proclaimed their strategies for family engagement and getting families vested in our students’ academic success, but most fall short of their proclamations.

In order to change this, we must help to build a new cultural foundation and create relationships that motivate family involvement and ultimately create family engagement. Research has constantly shown students’ success to be highly correlated with the level of their parent engagement. When parents are involved, students achieve more, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ education level.

Hoping to spark the must needed change for the sake of our students, Tulalip tribal member Eliza Davis, who works as a Native Liaison for the Marysville School District, is creating a parent engagement project that piggybacks off the Natural Leaders initiative. It is Eliza’s mission to help all our children succeed in school by providing skill building opportunities and in-class volunteer hours for parents to help their kids succeed.

“It is my dream that we will see a group of families and community members emerge and begin taking on leadership roles within the school.  We want to help build the families capacity to be partners in their student’s education. That is the piece we are missing here at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, the family and community representation in our work,” explains Eliza. “We are striving to integrate families in all levels of the work we are doing through the Natural Leaders initiative. We need to get input on our school improvement plan. We want to get parent involvement in building our leadership team. Really, we are just seeking parents to be in the building as volunteers, to help us bring more community events throughout the year, and eventually to bring some fundraising to events for our school.”

The Tulalip Natural Leader project challenges parents to take on a leadership role. They will build relationships with families in the community, identify what helps these families be successful with education and then implement these ideas. A driving focus is collaborative community organizing where parents are equal partners sharing a common goal of children achieving success in education.

“We are starting this work at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, but really I am thinking how we could be building this type of work up with our families in all our schools; the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, Totem Middle School, and the three high schools our kids are attending (Heritage, Marysville Pilchuck and Marysville Getchell),” continues Eliza. “We believe that family and community engagement work will bring great success for our Tulalip students. The research proves that these strategies are effective in bridging the opportunity gap in schools. We hope to be working side by side with more families and community members through this initiative very soon.”

According to the Washington Alliance for Better Schools, Natural Leaders are warm, caring social persons who serve as multicultural bridges between students, teachers, communities and schools. In our community we hear so much about education, the need for a cultural presence in our school, and advocating for our youth, especially around General Council season. Here is the perfect opportunity to show your support for our youth, our educators and our community by becoming a part of the Natural Leaders initiative.

Lack of parental supervision or a plain absence of parental engagement in their children’s day to day life is the most harmful demographic trend of this Native generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to substance abuse to perpetuating the impoverish mindset that clutches so many like a mental vice grip.

It is very powerful when adults engage in education themselves because actions speak louder than words. Children view adults as role models and aspire to be like them. Parents and Tulalip community members who answer the call to become Natural Leaders will experience personal growth that comes with giving of oneself for the better of our younger generation. Personal growth and transformation is an important outcome that leads to stronger communities and academic success for children.

“Parent and community engagement is an integral part of a successful school. In order to achieve academic success, parents and staff members need a strong partnership,” states Cory Taylor, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary Principal. “Thankfully the Natural Leaders program is designed to accomplish this objective. One particular way the Natural Leaders program has benefited our school is through the volunteer program. Parents have assisted in the following areas: after school events, classroom projects, perfect attendance awards, maintaining the school calendar, and individual academic student support.

“We are looking forward to building on the Natural Leaders program in the upcoming months and years. As we strengthen staff and parent relationships through this program we will be creating a brighter future for our students and children.”

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, or concerned community member, please consider becoming a part of Tulalip’s Natural Leader initiative. The next Natural Leaders group meeting will be Wednesday, March 23, at noon in room 162 of the Tulalip Administration building.

Share what the mission of the Natural Leaders group is and help our community to recruit able and willing employees, community members, parents and guardians. Become a part of the movement, be the ripple effect and support our youth.