SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Springdale Public Schools is the largest school district in Arkansas, and staff there say it’s their goal to create a proactive model for inclusion that other districts can follow.
Part of this effort involves a bilingual show called “Cafecito + Charla” or “Coffee + Chat”, which updates Spanish-speaking parents on what’s happening in the schools and the Springdale community as a whole.
“Everybody deserves the same opportunity to know the same information,” says Maribel Tapia, the community outreach liason for Springdale Public Schools and host of Coffee + Chat.
As a migrant student coming to Springdale in the 90s, Coffee + Chat represents a resource that Tapia says she and her parents never had.
I was with them whenever they had to get information or go to schools. And I felt, you know, how they were made to feel because they didn’t have the language. I did not want any other family going through the experiences that my family and I went through.Maribel Tapia, community outreach liason for Springdale Public Schools
In addition to her show, Tapia also runs a separate Facebook page for the school district’s Spanish-speaking parents so they can feel connected.
“We’re helping to reach the families that often get left behind,” says Tapia.
That’s also the mission of the non-profit OneCommunity, which partners with Springdale Public Schools for programming.
“These parents are hardworking; full of different rich culture,” says Mary Zaragoza Solliday, the vice-chair for OneCommunity. “However, they face a lot of challenges when they try to integrate with the community that they live in.”
In addition to its bilingual reading initiative for families, Solliday says OneCommunity runs a program encouraging Spanish-speaking parents to become school leaders.
If children see that their parents are involved in the school, in the community, there’s no stopping the child because they see it and they’re going to follow that example.Mary Zaragoza Solliday, vice-chair for OneCommunity
Solliday and Tapia agree that having a strong example is often the difference between isolation and belonging.
“It’ll be great,” starts Tapia, “once we get to a point where it’s not something like: ‘wow, they have brown teachers,’ you know, it’s just norm. It’s just the norm.”