Engaging Families for Student Success

By Patricia Balana, Managing Director, GRAD Partnership

When chronic absenteeism surged during the pandemic in Albuquerque, New Mexico – as it did across the country – Manzano High School knew family engagement would be key for removing barriers to attendance.  

In November 2022, Manzano convened parents, educators, students, and community representatives for a Family Resource Night. Students who were considered chronically absent by the district were invited along with their families to connect with a plethora of school, community, and district resources.

Family Engagement Manager for Albuquerque Public Schools Ben Barlow kicked off the evening with some introductory remarks, saying, “You don’t have to look very far to see that attendance is an issue all over this country right now. It didn’t start with COVID, but COVID sure didn’t help. With COVID in the rear-view mirror, we are still dealing with the aftereffects.”

He concluded by underscoring the need for educators, families, and community members to work together. “Think about the potential that exists for our kids right here in this room and all over this campus,” Barlow said. “Let’s keep getting them to school so that they have the best chance to realize their dreams. We can do it together – partnering together.”

Nearly 200 families gathered to focus on this challenge, access resources, and make connections. Translators were on hand for all seven languages spoken at Manzano. Health partner Oak Street Health provided 75 vaccines for a number of viruses from flu to COVID, advice for housing and rental assistance was available, and several other resources (such as free or low-cost internet or assistance signing up for Medicaid) were accessible for families.

Family engagement is core to the student success system Manzano has been implementing over the past few years. One essential component of student success systems is supportive relationships between educators, students, parents/families/caregivers, and the community. To ensure students’ success, a culture of working in isolation must give way to one of collective support and shared responsibility.

Manzano’s early warning system coordinator Jeanie Stark noted, “This event really helped build trust with the parents. We are still building those relationships, but I think they will be more ready to call, to help us be more proactive.”

As the first GRAD Partnership spotlight school, Manzano High School will serve as a connecting point for other schools across the country as they seek models and reliable practices that harness the power of community relationships to meet the needs of every student and empower them to graduate ready for the future.

To learn more about how student success systems can bolster students’ wellbeing in your school and get tools, resources, and information, visit the GRAD Partnership website here.

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