When Yolanda De Jesus came to the United States, she didn’t know anything about the country’s education system.
After completing a 10-week course, De Jesus said she is better prepared to help her young son succeed in school.
"I saw the information provided (during the course) was very good," De Jesus said through an interpreter.
On Wednesday, 33 Latino parents graduated from the Parent School Partnership program, offered by Catholic Charities of Gainesville.
A graduation ceremony was held for a handful of parents on Tuesday at Gainesville Elementary School.
The program was a collaboration between the Hall County YMCA, Gainesville city schools, the Gainesville Housing Authority and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"This has been the biggest, best group that we’ve had," said Lana Fuentes-Krummen, family enrichment program coordinator for Catholic Charities of Gainesville.
The group gathered at the Melrose Apartment complex on Davis Street, clapped and cheered as each person’s name was called to receive a diploma for completion of the program.
Catholic Charities began offering the Parent School Partnership program in the fall of 2004. After attending a training session on the program, Fuentes-Krummen said she saw the value in it for teaching adults how to help their children do well in school.
For the past two years, the program has been funded by Gainesville’s Community Development Block Grant.
Once a week, the parents met to discuss a variety of topics, including: parent-teacher conferences; the structure of the schools and school district; preparing their children for college and how to receive financial aid for college.
"They’ve learned so much, and it’s amazing week to week just seeing the change in them, the questions that they’re asking, the way they’re empowered to help their kids succeed in school," Fuentes-Krummen said.
Habencia Ortiz has a daughter at Fair Street Elementary School. She first began attending the classes to earn community service hours.
People who live in a facility managed by the Gainesville Housing Authority are required to do a certain number of community service hours if they are unemployed. Credit was given toward those hours for people who attended the course.
"I was motivated by the information being taught to me and how I could help my child," Ortiz said through an interpreter.
Throughout the course, Ortiz said she learned that if her daughter serves the community it can help her academically; she also learned about programs at school that can help her make decisions about what’s best for her daughter.
After completing the course, Ortiz said she feels "very prepared" to help her daughter succeed in school.
De Jesus said that more than anything she learned "what we as parents should do to motivate and support our children in school."
As a result of the program, she said she knows what steps need to be taken in order for her son to go to college one day.
Though he is only in kindergarten, De Jesus is already planning for his future successes.
"I tell him he needs to study to do something important in life," she said.