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PASA: Graduating with Confidence, Community
September 20, 2014
Forziya Abdul Aziz had never worn a mortar board in her life – until recently when the Somalian woman basked in the glow of a special ceremony.
Abdul Aziz, a Somali immigrant and mother of seven, was among the 300 parent graduates on hand who received their diplomas from the Kent School District’s PASA (Parent Academy for Student Achievement) commencement at the Kent-Meridian High School gymnasium Dec. 16.
All told, more than 500 parent graduates composed the district’s third PASA graduating class. So far, the program has reached nearly a thousand parents.
PASA, a nine-week course, has shed its experimental phase to emerge as a standout program in the district. PASA provides parents with critical information to help navigate their child’s school experience and guide their child’s path to college, a career and a successful future.
PASA has become so successful that other school districts, including Renton and Auburn, are working to emulate the service.
Abdul Aziz, a refugee from the 1997 Somali Civil War, has several children attending Kent schools. But the woman knew little about how American education worked. PASA helped her navigate the complex and often intimidating system.
The latest class of graduates represented 13 schools in the district at all grade levels. The largest class was from Meadow Ridge Elementary School, which elded 65 graduates; Kent-Meridian had 59. Many of the parents are immigrants to the U.S.
The PASA program rotates among schools in the district, and plans to select the next round of participating schools in late spring. The program is offered in nine different languages, many of them the most prominent languages spoken in the district including Somali, Ukranian, Nepalese and Spanish.
Facilitator Yusuf Bashir, who volunteers as a PASA instructor at Pine Tree Elementary, said the school district did a good job of making the material easily translatable. But it goes beyond the lessons of how to maneuver through the school system, Bashir said, and into the utility of helping adults who previously felt intimidated by the system now feel a mastery of it.
“It helps us understand more how the system works, helps more to communicate with teachers as a parent to be a persistent coach,” Abdul Aziz said. “It helps us understand more a how the system works.”
Most useful to her was learning how to check the KSD Skyward network to keep track of her children’s progress. Her first son is finishing school at Green River Community College’s Running Start program, but her second oldest is in middle school. When she can see her children’s attendance and homework, she has a better idea of what is expected of them at school and how to reinforce that at home.
“PASA taught the importance of attendance and the value of finishing school,” Abdul Aziz said.
Matt Wittschiebe and his wife, Shelley, also graduated from PASA. With a 2-year- old and a 5-year-old about to enter the school system, they felt it would be a good plan to get a jump start on the educational process.
As college graduates in the 1990s, the Wittschiebes weren’t aware of how much school had changed.
“Now you gotta have a relationship with the teacher and the principal,” Matt said, “but what’s most important is to be positive and supportive.”