By: Rudy Escobar

Advocating for computer science requires bringing multiple partners to the table. However, we often overlook some of the most crucial partners—the parents. Even when we include parents, those from underserved communities or non-English-speaking backgrounds are frequently forgotten. These parents play a vital role in their children’s lives and in the educational system. Despite not always attending school meetings, they deeply care about their children receiving a high-quality education relevant to today’s world.

How to Partner with Underserved Parents?

To effectively partner with these parents, it’s essential to understand the community we’re trying to reach. Building relationships and trust within the community must precede any requests for involvement. Understanding their culture and needs is crucial, as we cannot expect their support without empathizing with their community’s challenges.

Developing Parent Leader Advocates

Our journey began with a Scratch grant, which allowed us to partner with a community organization to create “popups” in underserved LatinX communities. These events aimed to educate parents about computer science and provide them with opportunities to learn alongside their children about computer science and creative coding.

Lessons Learned from Initial Engagements

From our first group of parents, we learned the importance of understanding our audience. Many parents had never interacted with a computer or were unfamiliar with technical language in Spanish. Flexibility and session adjustments based on parents’ and families’ needs became essential for us.

We structured the sessions in Spanish, starting with an overview of computer science, creative coding with Scratch, and its importance in schools. The second session involved hands-on creative coding with parents and children. The third session focused on unplugged computer science activities. The final session featured keynote speakers from the community discussing their success stories and the importance of parental advocacy for computer science in schools.

Through interviews and surveys, we measured the success of parents’ increased involvement in advocating for computer science in their children’s schools.

Expanding the Learning

Based on our learnings, we conducted a second round of sessions to develop parents as leaders and advocates for computer science. The first session educated parents on the importance of computer science for LatinX students and discussed industry and educational inequities. The second session explored the impacts of computing through Artificial Intelligence. In the third session, parents used AI to write advocacy letters to leaders of their choice to advocate for computer science in their childrens’ schools.

These cohorts successfully initiated the development of parent advocate leaders for computer science. Our goal is to continue this work in the fall and next spring to strengthen these parents and involve new ones.

Key Takeaways and Recommendations
  • Find Local Community Organizations: Partner with organizations already trusted by the community to facilitate engagement and trust-building.
  • Be Aware of Parents’ Knowledge: Understand the technological literacy of parents to tailor the educational content effectively.
  • Be Flexible and Adjust to the Community: Adapt sessions based on the specific needs and feedback of the community.
  • Listen to Their Concerns: Address parents’ concerns and guide them on how to advocate effectively.
  • Provide Advocacy Tools: Equip parents with the necessary tools and resources to advocate for computer science in their children’s education.

By following these steps, we can ensure that all parents, especially those from underserved communities, are empowered to advocate for a quality computer science education for their children. This approach not only benefits the children but strengthens the community as a whole.


About the Author

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Rudy is a STEM and Computer Science Coordinator, who has demonstrated a history of working in education and a strong skill set in STEM PreK-12 Education, Science, Computer Science, STEM, Science, Artificial Intelligence, Physical Computing, Robotics, Curriculum Design, Engineering Project-based learning, and a Micro:bit Champion. Rudy serves as the CSTA Sacramento Technology Manager and CCCUE Communications Manager for the respective boards, actively contributing to CSforCA, AIforCA, and NGSS Collaborative. His leadership extends nationally and statewide as a CSTA Board at Large representative, CSTA policy committee liaison, 23-24 CSTA Equity Fellow, CSforCA Policy Workgroup liaison, CSMP Computer Science Integration Coordinator, CASE Region 1 director, and CASE Advocacy Committee Co-chair, and ISTE AI course Instructor.