Engaging parents at one of the most diverse schools in the city

The Academy of World Languages has the most complex student body of any school in Greater Cincinnati.

More than simply a school, this K-8 institution is one of Cincinnati Public School’s Community Learning Centers, meaning it offers a variety of services to benefit the entire community. And its community is diverse to say the least. Here’s what AWL, as it’s known, looks like:

    • 50% international families representing 40 countries, many of them refugees
    • 50% from Cincinnati
    • Residing in many different neighborhoods scattered throughout Greater Cincinnati
    • 33 languages are represented
    • 94% qualify for free or reduced lunch

AWL parents are particularly challenging to engage. Besides having language as a barrier, many of them come from cultures where mental health care and parent engagement are not well understood or embraced. Their lives are unpredictable and their children often traumatized. Prior to the 2014-15 school year, AWL offered mental health care through a partner agency, medical and dental services, and translators, among other services. One major unmet need, however, was parent engagement.

“Beech Acres is the top name that comes to mind when you think of parent engagement,” says the school’s resource coordinator Jill Smith.

Beech Acres Parenting Center came aboard in the summer of 2014. Our toolkit includes:

A highly skilled school coordinator and family engagement coordinator

A full assessment of the school’s needs and barriers to parent participation

A tried-a-true “menu” of services that could be tailored to each unique family

Expertise in helping parents understand the critical role they play in their child’s success, academic and otherwise

Full support and partnership with CPS, as well as support by the Junior League, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and the Daniel and Susan Pfau Foundation
A grant from Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning to implement the Toyota Family Learning program at AWL (in addition to Hays-Porter Elementary)The first year has been exciting but by no means easy. We’ve worked hard to educate the teachers about who we are and what we offer, so that they can partner with us in engaging parents. We’ve made inroads with several families, but not with all of those who need help. We look forward to a brighter future for all AWL families.

Our team at AWL is incredibly dedicated. Take Elizabeth Gottmer, our Family Engagement Coordinator, who rode on the Metro bus with one family on the children’s first day of school so that this mother—who speaks no English—could learn the route and travel more confidently in the future. Examples like this abound, and we would love the opportunity to share them with you.