FREE SPEECH ZONE | Lighting a torch, not just a candle with Spanish Speaking Families in St. Paul


A unique collaboration recently brought more than 200 St. Paul, Spanish-speaking parents and students together to learn critical details of college preparation and college entrance.  It’s one of a series of meetings the St. Paul Public School’s Office of Family Engagement & Community Partnerships is holding this academic year with a variety of partners.  The goal is to help produce a significant increase in the number of  Spanish speaking students who not only graduate from high school but also enter and graduate from some form of higher education.

In just under three hours, more than 200 Spanish speaking parents and their children recently ate dinner and talked with a variety of resource people knowledgeable about preparing for, and being admitted to some form of higher education.  Speakers included:

Josephine Books, World Language Faculty, Inver Hills Community College

Rodrigo Marquez, Mexican Consulate

Trumanue Lindsey Jr., Student Success Coordinator, Inver Hills Community College

Maria Steigauf, ELL Teacher, Paul and Sheila Wellstone & Brooke Stadler, ELL TOSA, Saint Paul Public Schools

Barb Schlaefer, Minnesota Office of Higher Education

Denise Linares, Associate Director, NAVIGATE

and this author from the Center for School Change, Macalester College.

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Participating families heard and discussed presentations in English and Spanish that focused on the value of high school and college graduation.   Some speakers also described courses that well prepared high school students can take, allowing them to earn college credit while still in high school.

Day care (or in this case, “evening care”) was provided for very young children.  And the skilled supervisors of the young children had youngsters doing art work with Mexican and Latino themes).

The workshop is part of an intensive, year -long effort led by the St Paul Public schools.   This is not just a “one shot” event.  Other meetings will be held during the year, including one in the spring on the Macalester College campus.   It’s one thing to talk about cooperation and collaboration.  It’s another thing to actually do it.

The St. Paul Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Valeria Sliva clearly are committed to producing better results.  They are holding similar meetings with and in a variety of communities throughout St. Paul. 

Sometimes one hears that it is better to “light a candle than curse the darkness.”  In holding these meetings with families around the city, it’s clear that the district is not satisfied to “light a candle.”  The district wants to create a torch, showing resources and opportunities that many families previously did not know about.