ACPS is expanding our reach into our diverse community with a new community outreach position in our Office of Communications, improved integration with the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center and increased translation of more school information into more languages. We have also launched social media for Twitter and Facebook in Spanish and launched a text message service to get our message out further.
ACPS recently welcomed Community Outreach Specialist Maria Camila Olivares, who goes by Camila. Olivares is bilingual in English and Spanish and works closely with schools and families to build relationships with and understand the needs of families for whom English is not their first language. Olivares has spent the past several weeks meeting with principals at individual schools, attending back-to-school nights and other school events, and participating in community meetings. She has also been meeting with community groups and organizations that support these families.
Through these activities, she has been learning about the most effective ways to communicate with different audiences based on language, cultural, literacy and economic differences in order to create meaningful community engagement across all populations.
My goal is to be out in the community so that I can get to know our international families and help them to feel part of our school community. My job is to make these families feel welcome, show them that they are an important and valued part of our community and that we want them to be involved. I am doing this by working to build strong relationships, encouraging parental involvement and communicating more directly with our families in the ways that they are best able to access our information,” said Olivares.
Olivares is already closing the communication gap with our Spanish-speaking population, which represents the largest non-native English speaking segment of our school population. She manages a Spanish Facebook page, a Spanish Twitter feed, and a text messaging service that enables users to sign up to receive information via text message in Spanish through Remind by texting the message “@101spanish” to the number 81010. She will be building communication plans for each school dependent on the needs of its population. ACPS is also working to improve communications in all languages in emergencies as situations allow.
Olivares has also been working closely with the FACE Center, which provides opportunities and resources for students, families and community members to participate in activities relevant to the academic achievement of our students. She has been participating in FACE events where she can connect with families and share information about her role and about division-wide initiatives. She has also been working with Parent Liaisons so that she can better understand their role and take advantage of opportunities to collaborate.
ACPS is also expanding our translation efforts to more regularly provide the translation of important school information into our three most prevalent languages: Spanish, Amharic and Arabic. This includes welcome packets published in the preferred language of the recipient, emergency communications in Spanish—and other languages wherever possible — and communications from Central Office on topics such as redistricting and the budget process.
Alexandria is a highly diverse city as is reflected in our school community. Our students hail from 127 countries and speak 115 languages. We are proud to celebrate this diversity and are working hard to ensure that the needs of all of our families are met.
This is keeping with our ACPS 2020 goal #2: Family and Community Engagement: ACPS will partner with families and the community in the education of Alexandria’s youth.
We look forward to engaging more fully with all our families!