Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Learning from Each Other: A Portrait of Family-School-Community Partnerships in the United States and Mexico

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Learning from Each Other: A Portrait of Family-School-Community Partnerships in the United States and Mexico

Article excerpt

Family-school-community partnerships are critically important for the academic success of all students. Unfortunately, in the face of specific barriers, Mexican immigrants struggle to engage in partnership efforts. In the hopes of promoting the engagement of Mexican immigrant families in partnerships, this article presents the findings of a transnational ethnography, exploring family-school-community partnership experiences of Mexican nationalists in Veracruz and Mexican immigrants in North Carolina. A portrait of partnerships in Mexico is contrasted with a portrait of partnerships in the United States, highlighting similarities and differences in role, structure, and function. School counselors are offered strategies for utilizing the knowledge of partnerships in Mexico to promote and support the engagement of Mexican immigrants in partnerships in the United States.

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A young, Latino male entered the school counselor's office obviously upset and asked for a few minutes of the school counselor's time. He explained that he had decided to send his daughter back to Mexico to live with a family member because she was being bullied at school and although he reached out to her teacher, he could not get any help. He despondently explained, "I believe it was because I am illegal. She does not feel she has to work with me and she knows I cannot go for help anywhere else." He felt his hands were tied and that education was too important for his daughter not to take action. He and his wife felt that if they sent their daughter back to Mexico, her educational experience would be better because their family would be able to work collaboratively with the school. However, this decision was heartbreaking for him and he had come to the school counselor for help handling the psychological distress he was experiencing.

The struggle to work collaboratively with educators and the difficult decision faced by the father in the previous scenario plays out across the United States daily as Latino immigrant parents face a multitude of barriers to family-school collaboration (Cockcroft, 1995; Espinoza-Herold, 2003). In the hopes of furthering the scholarship on this topic and promoting academic discourse concerning how to reduce the barriers Latino immigrants face to partnership involvement, I present the findings of a transnational qualitative study that critically explored and compared the role, structure, and function of family-school-community partnerships in Mexico and the United States (Dotson-Blake, 2006). By elucidating similarities and differences in partnership role, structure, and function in the United States and Mexico, I hope to shed light on the immigrant experience with partnerships in the United States and provide school counselors with strategies to promote the involvement of immigrant parents and families.

POPULATION OF FOCUS

The engagement of Latino immigrant families with U.S. schools has gained increasing attention in educational research as the population has grown. Currently, Latino students make up 19.5% of the K12 student population and of the 8.5 million Hispanic families in the United States; 63% include one or more children under the age of 18 (Pew Hispanic Center, 2007). At present, more than half (64%) of Latino immigrants currently living in the United States are of Mexican origin (Grieco, 2010). In recent years, many families and individuals have emigrated from small, rural towns in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, to small, rural towns in eastern North Carolina in the United States (Cortina, 2006). The experiences of these immigrants as they have sought to enter and engage with education institutions in North Carolina can shed light on the immigrant experience with the construction and implementation of family-school-community partnerships and potential barriers to participation in these partnerships. Thus, I present a study that included focus groups of parents, focus groups of educators, and individual interviews with community professionals in a small, rural community in North Carolina and a small, rural community in Veracruz. …

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