The guest speaker receives a plaque at the Latino Education Summit.

More than 300 people came to Shuksan Middle School on May 17 for the Latino Education Summit. The summit was sponsored by the Family Engagement Department for Bellingham Public Schools. The event included a complimentary Mexican meal, followed by a guest speaker, a presentation from district staff and performances from community groups. The entire event was in Spanish with English translation offered.

“We talked for years about putting on a summit like this because we wanted to bring our Latino families to together in celebration of our culture and for the opportunity of being able to have the same message for all the families at the same time,” said Isabel Meaker, Special Assistant to the Superintendent for Family Engagement.

Patricia Loera, a senior program officer for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was the guest speaker. Loera works on grants aimed at increasing the number of minority youth who graduate from high school ready for college. Loera spoke about the importance of education and how to use it to create a better future. Following her presentation, Loera was given a framed copy of The Bellingham Promise, flowers and locally-made tamales.

Representing Bellingham Public Schools, Meaker spoke to parents, encouraging them to demonstrate that school is important by working closely with their schools. She encouraged families to strengthen their home language while emphasizing the importance of a strong bilingual skill set. She also spoke about creating a structured time and space for doing schoolwork at home and reminded them that they are their child’s first teacher.

Meaker is developing a districtwide PTA that will have all communications in Spanish. This will allow Spanish-speaking families to be more involved in their student’s school.

“I am honored to be a part of the Bellingham Public Schools. Our staff is setting a precedent in family engagement that is hard to duplicate,” said family liaison Tanya Rojas. “The culture has been created by a collection of humble hearts, service, leadership and love for every single child in our schools.”

Rojas said she can only imagine the possibilities for years to come and she gave special recognition to Meaker for the success of the event.

“The turnout we experienced is a testimony to Isabel’s years of service and the sense of family that she has nourished in our schools,” said Rojas. “She is one of a kind!”

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