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Guest Speaker at Christie Elementary Targets Dad Involvement (February, 2006)

Saturday was a special day for many children at Christie Elementary because their dads were there to learn with them.

Alphonso Rincon, founder of Fathers Active in Communities and Education (FACE), met with Spanish-speaking fathers and their children for a morning of parent training and fun exercises to help parents understand the importance of fathers in building a child’s future.

Rincon brings a wide variety of experiences to bear when speaking to fathers. He is the father of three children and was active in his own local parent-teacher organization when they were in school. He has a background in education, history, public health, substance abuse prevention and the arts. He is the son of parents who spoke little English but believed in the importance of education. He graduated from Texas State University with honors, and he credits their example of hard work and vision with his ability to excel in school.

Rincon greeted the fathers in their native language and the entire program was in Spanish. The fathers present represented a wide-range of socio-economic backgrounds and experiences but each family shared common threads - they had Hispanic surnames, their children are being educated in a Texas public school, and they love their children and want them to do well. To that point, Rincon’s presentation addressed the importance of a strong father figure involved in his children’s education. He asked how many dads in the room had heard of and understood about the TAKS test. About half of the men present raised their hands.

“That’s good,” he told the audience and went on to stress to them the importance of education and the importance of doing well on standardized tests. “There is no more social promotion,” he said. He showed dads the numbers of Hispanic children succeeding in school compared to Anglo and other ethnic groups. He also showed how few fathers overall tend to be involved in Christie.

Rincon urged fathers to be strong and encourage their children to study. He talked to them about the importance of meeting teachers, volunteering at the schools and teaching their children that they can have dreams and reach goals.

Rincon worked with the fathers to help them interact with their children. He had the group color together, blow up balloons and bat them around the gym together and then he held up a piece of foam tubing used as pool toy. “This is the papa,” he said. He held up a slightly smaller piece which the audience identified as the mama. He held up a very small piece and when the audience identified it as the Nino – he said, “This is the pre-school nino.” The tubes represented a family. He had the group divide up into two lines and compete to see which one could pass the tubes up and down the line over their heads and later between their legs without breaking up the family. In addition to teaching the importance of the family as a unit, the exercise had dads and children alike giggling and struggling to win the game.

Several dads said they would like to get together for similar events on a monthly basis, Olivas said and others were excited to have met other dads and to have exchanged telephone numbers.

This event to give fathers a better understanding of their importance in education is just one of several parent education events that have been held in FISD this year, according to Blanca Olivas, FISD Parent Liaison and organizer of the event. Olivas and Lucy Cantu, Parent Education Coordinator, both say they have been very excited about the growing number of parents who are participating to events planned specifically for parents whose primary language is Spanish.