On Thursday night, the moms and dads went to class while their kids played.
The Spanish-speaking parents are studying English and basic computer skills at Joe Serna Jr. Charter School. They want to be able to communicate better and help their children succeed.
Parents like Martha Tejeda were eager to learn.
“I want to learn English to be able to speak with people,” Tejeda said in Spanish. “I want to be able to help my son with his homework. Sometimes, when we go to a restaurant and I want to order a hamburger, I can’t. I want to be able to communicate in stores without asking my son to speak for me.”
Joe Serna Jr. Charter School is participating in a new program launched this year called Jump Into English. Other participating schools in the area include Lodi Middle School and Ansel Adams Elementary in North Stockton.
Parents come into class, grab a laptop and headphones and get to work practicing English through a computer program.
For the next eight weeks, they will watch real-life scenarios and repeat phrases that they can record and play back to compare. Some activities involve practicing letter and vowel sounds, while others are centered on conversation basics, such as introducing yourself.
Hilda Ceja, program coordinator and instructor for the class, also tries to speak in English as much as possible to help her students get used to hearing it. When they don’t understand, she asks students to ask another parent or raise their hands.
“We want to make parents be empowered parents,” Ceja said.
There was some initial confusion in using the equipment. Many needed help learning how to open the program, adjust the volume and at times how to plug in headphones — another set of skills they hope to master by the end of the class.
A problem for one of the parents, Martina Barrera, was that she had not received much of an education herself, not having studied much in the elementary grades. She was taking the class so she could monitor her children’s academic progress and to communicate better with others.
“I want to be able to go to the doctor and ask questions,” Barrera said in Spanish.
The program at Joe Serna is funded through a grant from the Medi-Cal Reimbursement Grant Program, which covers the cost of the instructor and the laptops used in the program, according to Principal Maria Cervantes. Parents also receive free childcare during the class through Joe Serna’s school budget.
Cervantes was approached by Jump Into English founder DeeAnn Antonini about running a pilot program in September.
“Parents were so responsive and enthusiastic that we finished the pilot session with a waiting list,” Cervantes said. “We recognized that having another session would offer other parents the opportunity to participate and develop their English skills and learn how to increase support for their children.”
The lessons don’t stop with English, either.
At the end of the classes, parents have a 30-minute session to discuss things like attending free GED classes and how to log on to the school’s grading system to see how their children are doing in school.
No one at Thursday’s session knew how to access their children’s grades online, so the homework for next week was to find out the login and password to practice next time.
Flor Ramirez, a paraeducator who helps with the class in between studying at the University of the Pacific, was optimistic about the students and the program.
“It’s amazing. They need this type of class. My parents had to study everything on their own. The class teaches them the power of technology so they’re not lost,” Ramirez said. “When they first came in they were skeptical, but just by the third day, they’re in their seats ready to pull out the computers like, ‘What can you teach me today?’”
Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at firstname.lastname@example.org.