RSIC Education Column: Educators building bridges
Special to First Nation’s Focus
Jesse Hall Elementary was established in 2014 about six miles from our Hungry Valley Reservation community and our students were rezoned to the shiny new (non-Title I) school. At the school’s inauguration our Reno-Sparks Indian Colony students were enrolled and our RSIC Education Program has imperatively been present ever since.
This was the start of our school-community partnership. There has been much federal research dollars spent conducting longitudinal studies of the importance of establishing and maintaining school-community partnerships, which can be defined as “connections between schools and community individuals, organizations, and businesses that are forged to directly or indirectly promote students’ social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development.”
This goes way beyond parents volunteering in the classroom; rather, we are bringing our way of life into the classroom and also getting school officials off of campus to see how we live.
This school-year, 2019-20, is particularly exciting because we have a new Principal, Mrs. Kellie Oliver, and a new counselor, Ms. Katrina Fries. Both have worked for the Washoe County School District for many years, but neither of the two has had any prior working relationship with RSIC Edu.
Furthermore, this is my first full year as an Education Advisor for the RSIC Edu., so all of us were optimistic, even idealistic, of the potential for growing our well established school-community partnership. I must say, it felt good to see these two public school administrators eagerly accept my invitation to come visit our reservation community.
But together, the pair of Administrators exceeded the expectation of my initial invitation.
Within a few weeks of our introduction the Principal made her way up to Hungry Valley, my staff and I were giddy to give her the grand tour!
Shortly thereafter she was back in Hungry Valley, together with the Counselor and the Parent-Teacher Association, to conduct a Jesse Hall PTA meeting in our Education Center! This was the first scheduled PTA meeting for Jesse Hall of the 2019-20 school year and I was honored to be their host.
Now, just recently, we collaborated with our pair of Administrators to hold “Home Visits.” The Counselor, Ms. Fries, told me, “We don’t even want to talk about grades or anything about school. We really want to get to know the students, their parents, their household dynamic. We really want to play with them and get to know them within their space. So wear sneakers that day! Who knows what we might get into?!”
We did have a blast indeed, great conversation and lots of laughs. Actually, we had too many parents sign up to participate in the event, so we had to cap it and set up another date to hold a second round of Home Visits next month, and again in January.
I am over the moon with how strong our school-community relationship is, how easy it was to grow, and surprised by the willingness of my community, students and parents alike, to move in this direction too.
We are building bridges. Let’s see where this journey will take us! Let’s see how our community will transform when we see ourselves reflected in the ethos of our schools.
Justin Zuniga works as an RSIC Education Advisor at the Hungry Valley Center in Sparks. Email him at email@example.com with questions.