Project Empowerment

As a young adult, Kiedra Taylor, a resident of San Diego, always had the potential to go to college, but like many she lacked two of the most important resources, information and money. To ensure that her four children do not suffer the same fate, Taylor enrolled in the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a program designed to empower parents.

Founded in 1987, PIQE is a nine-week training program for parents with students in grades K-12. During weekly classes, parents learn how to improve their child’s performance in the classroom, enhance their parent-and-child relationship, and map out a strategic plan to get their children enrolled in a college or university.

The mission of PIQE is to empower schools, parents and communities to work collaboratively to uplift California’s under-served children. There are currently 10 PIQE regional offices in California and 15 PIQE schools in each one of the California State University campus regions.

In 2006, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed provided $575,000 in funding for CSU campuses to partner with local schools to bring the PIQE program to areas where they didn’t exist.

The program has been an invaluable resource for parents like Taylor who need extra help preparing their kids for college.

“The facilitators at PIQE have empowered me with information. I’ve learned how to manage my time better since I work and go to school. They’ve educated me on how to deal with the issue of drugs, and they’ve grouped me with people who are dealing with the same things that I am,” says Taylor, who is midway through the program.

Trained facilitators, who must first graduate from the program, teach the nine-week classes. The majority of facilitators are college graduates and parents who have extensive knowledge of the school system and the demographic that they are trying to educate.

Students and teachers alike agree that education begins at home. Studies show that when parents are engaged in their child’s education, they increase the likelihood that their child will pursue some type of postsecondary education.

“We believe that by empowering teachers and parents we reach two critical components of success. We don’t lose sight of the child. However, we try and involve the parent in as much of the activity as possible. Parents play a vital role in shaping the student’s attitude toward college,” says Jorge Haynes, senior director of external relations for California State University.

While much of the PIQE curriculum focuses on the academic requirements of the California State University system and minimizing the financial constraints of college, PIQE’s holistic approach also allows for a community-based curriculum that addresses how parents should interact with their children’s teachers, how parents can build students’ self-esteem, keep them away from neighborhood gangs and how to create a positive home environment that is conducive to learning. “Parents are taught to meet with their child’s teacher every month. If parents ask teachers what can I do at home and what do you promise to do here at school so that my child will go to college, that teacher will never look at that student the same,” says David Valladolid, president and CEO of PIQE.

Taylor talks to her children every day about their education, something she learned from PIQE. “We are constantly talking about school, college and career goals. We go out on weekend trips to visit the colleges in our area. My parents didn’t have those daily conversations with me,” says Taylor, who is currently taking classes at a local community college.

There are hundreds of programs nationwide that aim to make college more accessible for low-income and minority students, yet, few of them produce the desired results. Since the partnership began, however, there has been a significant surge in the number of minority applicants enrolling in the CSU system, and of those applicants more than 20 percent are considered “college ready.”

Valladolid says PIQE succeeds because it was created in the community that it seeks to serve. “PIQE is a program that came from the community up. What began as a group of concerned parents who met for a series of eight meetings evolved into an educational movement. We learned from the parents how to recruit and how to sustain,” Valladolid says.

The CSU campuses will provide every child of a PIQE graduate with a college admission certificate stating that they are conditionally admitted to a CSU school. In 2006, PIQE graduated 27,815 low-income parents in California, and the program continues to grow. PIQE has extended its reach to underserved communities in Arizona and Texas.

“[Our program] is an awakening for many parents. We’ll have 100 to 300 parents at a session,” says Valladolid. “They realize if they are not going to be active in their kids’ education at home and at school, their kids will be lost.” D

–Michelle J. Nealy

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