When Ofelia Flores was granted custody of her five grandchildren, she found herself raising students in an educational setting noticeably different from her own children’s and a stark contrast to the one she recalls from her years in school.

Through her work as the parent liaison at Stipes Elementary, where two of her grandchildren attend, and previously as a home instructor for the district’s HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), she was a little more equipped to help her grandchildren through their cognitive, creative, social and emotional development. 

Still, it was easy to get lost in the maze of advanced courses, intervention and enrichment offerings, college preparation and career certification opportunities – not to mention the heavy reliance on technology and other digital platforms.

Enter Path to College and Careers. This parent discussion series, facilitated by the district’s department of parent and family engagement, aims to equip parents to be advocates for their child’s educational journey. 

“Path to College and Careers prepares parents and students for a successful future,” Flores says. “I believe that we as parents should start taking this course from the time children are in PreK. Parents learn how we can guide our children from the beginning of their early school years through the college and career planning process.”

Topics of the discussion range from how to review school progress reports/report cards and learning about student support programs to preparing for graduation. The series focuses on how to support student learning, the importance of strong communication with teachers and the value of a well-rounded student (academics, electives, extracurricular involvements, volunteering).

This semester, the eight-part virtual series kicks off next Tuesday, February 2, and runs every Tuesday through March 30. Participants can choose to attend at either 1 PM or 6 PM on those dates. 

“It has been a great way to learn how to get my grandchildren the educational help they need,” says Flores, who is raising Fabian, a Nimitz High School graduate; Tori, a student at Johnson Middle School; Chayse and Bentley, students at Stipes Elementary; and 1-year-old Saint. “I have learned the steps needed to guide them towards a successful future. Being able to love them, protect them, direct them to be loving, caring, responsible, supportive and successful, men and women is very important for me.”

But it isn’t just her own offspring who benefit from these courses. As a parent liaison, Flores then turns around and disseminates the valuable information to families through the parent center at Stipes.

“I have always taken positions that will help the community,” says Flores, who has also worked as a school secretary at a Catholic school in Chicago and on several community committees, including one where she had the opportunity to work with Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia, now the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s fourth district. “Being a parent liaison has given me the opportunity to have closer encounters with the community, and it has been an awesome experience. The district and schools have so much to offer, and I love to share what I learn. I feel blessed to have this job.”

Even with the pandemic, Flores and the parent and family engagement program at Irving ISD are committed to providing families the resources and information they need to partner in their child’s learning.

“This year is different due to the pandemic, however this has not stopped me from giving my parents support via ZOOM,” she says. “ My position as parent liaison has given me the tools to share with parents by offering classes to help them. The most important thing is that your children know that you are engaged and interested in their progress and ready to support them as needed. We can make sure that our children are making realistic and reachable goals to make his/her future a strong and bright future.”

To register for Path to College and Careers, visit IrvingISD.net/PTCC. For questions, contact Erin Yacho, parent and family engagement coordinator for Irving ISD, at eyacho@irvingisd.net or 972-600-6132.