Graduate students from the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) School of Social Work are working with parents from four downtown Long Beach elementary schools to host a day-long educational conference for parents and children from the community as part of an effort to work with low-income, culturally diverse families in Long Beach.
The educational conference is part of the YMCA Family Involvement Project, the goal for which is to encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s education and their communities. The event will be held at Stevenson Elementary School on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. About 30 CSULB social work students will be there, and the event is expected to draw about 400 people.
The students have been working closely with parents and YMCA staff to identify community concerns and design a project to help address them. Both parents and students are developing their skills in the areas of fundraising, outreach and advertising, collaborating with schools and community organizations, developing curriculum and presenting workshops.
The joint project helps social work students to better appreciate the lives and skills of community residents while developing skills in the area of community development and organization. It also allows parents to gain confidence in their ability to make a difference in their community.
“This is an extremely important event since the conference is designed to address concerns identified by the community itself. The process is helping both community residents and social work students develop skills related to community organization and mobilization. The great thing is that it is also breaking down cultural barriers and exposing students to community life,” said Julie O’Donnell, professor and director of research at the CSULB Child Welfare Training Centre in the School of Social Work.
The event will include participants from the four Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) elementary schools: Stevenson, International, Roosevelt and Burnett. Workshops will be provided by students and parents or by community organizations specializing in some of the topics. Workshops will focus on bullying and cultural diversity, volunteerism and civic engagement, public safety and health, including information on nutrition and diabetes. Food, interactive activities and raffle prizes will also be provided.
“It is very great for the community to work with the students because for me, as a resident, it is important for families to be involved in making the community a better place. We are seeing change,” said Marciela Ortiz, a parent from International Elementary.
O’Donnell believes that one benefit from participating CSULB students will be their opportunity to see all the strengths that residents bring to these projects as well as the importance of involving residents in decisions about what should happen in their communities.