• by Linda Ocasio • IDRA Newsletter • September 1996 • 

Writer Linda Ocasio was asked by the Ford Foundation to attend the Mobilization for Equity (MFE) parent conference in San Antonio. The Ford Foundation has provided funds through the National Coalition of Advocates for Students to IDRA and others for this national MFE effort (see stories on pp. 3 and 6). Below are highlights of her observations.

The parent conference was in full swing at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, after a morning of coffee, donuts and introductions in the auditorium. Then some 80 parents dispersed to various classrooms for workshops. In one room, Margarita James discussed parent­teacher communication and how parents can take an active role in their child’s education. In another room, Clementina Padilla talked about the importance of love in the family. James and Padilla are part of a larger planning committee of 30 parents who organized the conference over five months, from the smallest details to the largest.

IDRA’s Aurelio Montemayor reminded the parents that the conference was a means to an end – more parent involvement in the new organization – not an end in itself. “It’s all a preamble to the real training,” Montemayor said. “After the conference, we’ll discuss what gets in the way of our organizing our community. I’m pushing hard for a critical analysis of what leadership is.” He spent months prior to the conference meeting with the core committee, and was by turns cajoling and stern, his conversation flowing back and forth between Spanish and English. Montemayor was able to draw on the synergy of other organizing and training efforts going on in San Antonio. The conference was sponsored by IDRA, the local chapter of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and Avance, another family training organization.

“Aurelio and I are both trainers, so it just evolved into a natural process,” said Lucy Acosta, director of MALDEF’s parent leadership program in San Antonio. “It’s coming together as a group, a team­building process that parents usually don’t get to be a part of. Other parent conferences are decided by a group of professionals and educators. This is parents saying what they want.”

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[©1996, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 1996 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]