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New center in Watts middle school reflects LAUSD’s focus on parents’ needs

Charles Hastings | December 4, 2023

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City councilmember Tim McOsker, Ms. Lenya Crowell and LA school board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin open the parent center at Edwin Markham Middle School. (Charles Hastings)

Edwin Markham Middle School in the Watts community opened one of LAUSD’s first parent centers last month, part of a larger plan to add over 300 centers in schools across the district. 

The center offers services to help parents support children through school, along with  career workshops and financial stipends.

As the district introduces more digital tools and platforms, such as the parent portal and the AI chatbot program “Ed,” it can be challenging for parents to adjust to new technologies. The centers, especially in elementary schools, will target struggling parents early. 

“We like to explain the resources we have for parents early to get them involved,” said LA Unified’s chief facilities officer Krisztina Tokes. “It just makes sense.”

At the new center’s opening, parents were assured they had a “home” at the school and were encouraged to take advantage of the resources offered. Besides workshops to help promote career, financial, and child-rearing success, parents will also have access to laptops on loan as well as Change Reaction, a new program helping struggling families make ends meet with charitable donations.

A new parent center at Edwin Markham Middle School will offer an opportunity for parents to become better educated and more involved in their children’s education (Charles Hastings)

“This is a safe place for students, but the support of parents matters,” said Lenya Crowell who helped found the parent center. “We have got to keep our parents updated.”

LAUSD engagement officer Antonio Plascencia Jr. said bilingual programs are offered through parent centers across the district; and that remote sessions would also be offered. 

The new parent center at Edwin Markham Middle School is one of 300 planned centers that will offer an opportunity for parents to become involved in their children’s education (Charles Hastings)

“Every research study that we have seen from over 50 years shows that when we engage and empower our students and our families we accelerate outcomes,” said Plascencia. 

Mexican-born Markham Middle School principal Juana “Yumi” Kawasaki described how a parent center in the community where she grew up helped her parents acclimate to life in the United States and acquire the know-how to help Kawasaki be successful later in life. 

“I am who I am because of the parent center,” Kawasaki said. 

Charles Hastings is an exchange student from Trinity College Dublin. He is currently a junior at USC; and has written for the University Times, Get a Grip Magazine, and his college publication, Trinity News.

This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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