SAN ANTONIO—A meaningful pre-kindergarten experience is increasingly seen as a critical part of a child’s education, and parents are expected to play a much more significant role. In this city, like many around the country, poorer families must first overcome powerful hurdles to be more present in their children’s education. That’s why Pre-K for San Antonio was designed to support and engage parents and extended families in ways that bolster their pre-schoolers’ chances to excel.
While students are taught by master teachers with advanced degrees in classrooms filled with the latest educational tools and technology, parents also receive specialized attention from trained professionals. Parent Specialists plan activities, provide support and guidance in parenting, encourage parents’ professional development, and generally foster in them the idea of active citizenship. A central part of their role is to identify areas in which Pre-K 4 SA can help families cross over from poverty and physical isolation in San Antonio, where urban sprawl and multiplying highways effectively section off the haves from the have-nots.
“We service a community that has historically been marginalized. We try to make this a welcome table of education,” Luti Vela-Gude said. “This creates a place of belonging for people. It used to be that people were connected with their families or churches, but the school is now playing that role. The parents feel like they belong here.” A licensed-professional counselor and former teacher, Vela-Gude is one of two family specialists at Pre-K 4 SA’s South Center.