Chet Hewitt, left, CEO of Sierra Health Foundation, led a coalition of local community leaders and parent advocates to announce the launch of the Parents Advocating For Student Success (PASS) Program. (photo by Ray Johnson)

(WORDINBLACK.COM) – The Center at Sierra Health Foundation announced this week the launch of the Parents Advocating for Student Success (PASS) Program to engage parents and families for educational equity for all students in Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD).

The PASS Program is funded for two years and will train, empower, and support parents on school campuses to increase and facilitate parent engagement, prioritize parent concerns related to their child’s education, collectively advocate for solutions to improve student achievement, and ensure the healthy social and emotional development of all children. 

The center this week releases a request for qualifications for local community organizations to manage and create the program’s final design with parents, with input and participation from existing community organizations and parent coalitions.

“Parents — or any positive, caring adult in the lives of students inclusive of parents, caregivers, extended family members, and guardians — have always been among the most committed advocates for the needs of children,” said Chet P. Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and of the center. “The PASS Program will be an additional resource for families to articulate their visions for student success and for all allies who care about kids to move forward positive change throughout the district.”

The project was announced at a press conference at Hiram Johnson High School in collaboration with a PASS Coalition of organized families of SCUSD students, community-based organizations, labor unions, business organizations, and civic leaders. SCUSD the past several years has faced numerous major financial and administrative challenges, resulting in educational inequity for students across the district, particularly students who are poor, students of color, and students with disabilities. 

Several local organizations have made strenuous efforts to help the school district ease the academic challenges for some of its 45,000 students.

For the last 15-plus years, the Black Parallel School Board (BPSB) has pushed the school district to expand its focus to include more additional student-parent involvement long before the PASS program was created.

A community organization, BPSB was developed to work parallel to the SCUSD, with a primary charge of supporting the educational growth and achievement of Black students.

Concerned parents and local leaders have organized to inform discussions about the future of their students’ learning. The PASS Coalition includes representatives from the BPSB, Greater Sacramento Urban League, NAACP Sacramento, the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), and the Sacramento Region Business Association.

In addition, the Sacramento Association of Realtors, Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Valley Vision and others have discussed expanding student achievement.

“Every time the system falters, it fails a child of color. Every single time,” said Betty Williams, president of Sacramento NAACP. “We have systems built to fail us. So we’re going to speak in one voice. Our families depend on voices like ours. We’ve come together to make sure parents are successful.”

Also announced was a series of community forums led by Valley Vision and sponsored by Five Star Bank and Sierra Health Foundation. The forums will enable families throughout the district to learn more about decisions impacting their students and share their needs and priorities with the community.  Interested participants can register at the Valley Vision or PASS program websites.

“Children and parents shouldn’t be left to tackle these problems alone,” said Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt. “We’re working for more equitable solutions for all students. Our workforce depends on it, our quality of life depends on it and, most importantly, the futures of our kids depends on it.”

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Support for this Sacramento OBSERVER article was provided to Word In Black (WIB) by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. WIB is a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media that includes print and digital partners.