DC Scores Cites Bilingual Capacity to Virtual Transition Success

Guest post by Caitlin Furey with Anthony Francavilla of DC Scores April 2020

At the beginning of March, DC SCORES was busy gearing up for their spring season. For twelve weeks each spring, over 3,000 students at 65 schools play soccer, write poetry, and serve their community with DC SCORES. When schools closed in response to the spread of COVID-19, DC SCORES had to act quickly. Rather than cancelling their season, DC SCORES committed to staying connected to as many of their poet-athletes as possible while they are at home. Within three weeks, DC SCORES had built an online learning portal called SCORES at Home. Updated daily with new writing and soccer lessons, along with supplemental resources that might be helpful to the students and their families, the online learning portal is bilingual, offering all resources in both English and Spanish. DC SCORES knows that this will allow them to reach more families – over 40% of DC SCORES participants are Latino.

How did DC SCORES have the capacity to develop SCORES at Home as a fully bilingual online learning portal? The organization has been strategically building their capacity to effectively communicate with bilingual and Spanish-speaking families for at least three years. In 2017, DC SCORES launched the Familias Unidas Initiative after conducting focus groups with Spanish-speaking parents of DC SCORES participants. These focus groups, which were led by DC SCORES’ Latino Engagement Coordinator, informed a strategy to increase the organization’s cultural competency and sensitivity and launch a Spanish-language communications plan. In 2018, the Crimsonbridge Foundation made a grant to DC SCORES through our Bridges Program to support Spanish-language communications capacity building efforts, including the creation of a Spanish-language microsite, a ¡Conoce más sobre DC SCORES! video, and other communications collateral.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of investing in communications, especially communications to reach members of the community who do not speak English. Tony Francavilla, DC SCORES Chief Development Officer, reflects, “ DC SCORES is so much better equipped to communicate with our Spanish-speaking families through SCORES at Home, our Parent Resource Center, and through direct communication than we were a couple years ago. Our bilingual Communications and Engagement Manager has been essential in basically every part of our work since we went virtual.”

DC Scores will host Our Words Our City – Live! – a virtual event – on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 7pm. To participate register here.

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Schools Invest in Spanish Language Resources to Welcome, Support, and Engage Families

Last month we reported that 16 DC area schools have received Bridges for Schools grants to support strategic Spanish and bilingual communications capacity building. Since 2018, this funding has helped participating Catholic schools invest in strategies and resources to create a welcoming environment, promote engagement and participation of Hispanic families, and increase enrollment of Hispanic students.

What do these investments look like? That’s the exciting part! Bridges for Schools grants are tailored, so that each school has the opportunity to determine their specific needs and identify resources. Over the past two years, these schools have found research-based and creative ways to expand their Spanish-language resources, marketing, and outreach. A vast majority of the schools use funding for human translation of school marketing and enrollment materials, which helps to ensure equitable access for Spanish-speaking families. Many schools are adding original Spanish-language content to their website, and one school will produce a Spanish-language video for their website. Other schools have chosen to hire Spanish-speaking liaisons or to provide stipends for translators at schools open houses and other events.

This month, we’re featuring two Bridges for Schools recipients, who have used their $2,500 grant to successfully develop their Spanish language communications capacity and outreach.

Saint Michael’s School – Latino Liaison has Transformative Impact

Since becoming the school principal in 2006, Lila Hofmeister has worked to create a welcoming environment for all families, especially the increasing number of Latino students and families in their school community. For years, Saint Michael’s relied on volunteers to provide Spanish-language support in the school office. When Saint Michael’s applied for Bridges for Schools in 2018, they requested funding to hire a part-time bilingual Latino Liaison to work in the front office and create a bridge between Spanish-speaking parents and school faculty. Although the new employee was only in the office for 12 hours each week, she had an immediate and transformative impact on the school. From translating the school’s weekly newsletter to hosting events that bring together the parish and school communities, the role of the Latino Liaison has become essential. This year, Saint Michael’s received additional funding through Bridges for Schools to increase the role to nearly full-time. After the 2018-19 school year, Principal Hofmeister shared that hiring “a Latino Liaison has positively impacted our total school environment, enabling all staff to widely communicate with our families. We are able to actively engage our students and parents in school activities and encourage their participation when they may otherwise be hesitant.” Removing barriers to parent engagement is truly making a difference at Saint Michael’s.

Academy of the Holy Cross – Bilingual Parent Ambassadors Connect with Community

In 2018, the Academy of the Holy Cross used the Bridges for Schools grant to add Spanish-language content to the school website, translate admissions information, host open houses with Spanish-language translators, and launch a Parent Ambassador program that includes bilingual parents from the school community. In 2019, Holy Cross will continue their great work with the Parent Ambassadors Program. As explained by Danielle Ballantine, the school’s Director of Communications, “the Parent Ambassador Program at The Academy of the Holy Cross is an important way for us to connect with the community. We have over 45 parents, including several bilingual parents, who are already sharing their enthusiasm about Holy Cross and are actively involved both here and in their elementary and parish communities. Ambassadors provide prospective families their own personal experiences for navigating the high school selection process. Through the Parent Ambassador Program, we hope to continue to strengthen our relationships within the Latino community and further increase applications and enrollments of Latino students.” The Parent Ambassadors Program is just one example of how Holy Cross is working towards their mission to create a welcoming environment within and beyond the school bounds.

Learn more about Bridges for Schools and our Hispanic Education Imperative!

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