FORT WORTH, TX — On Saturday, April 7, over 11 families from our Parents As Leaders (PAL) program took a field trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. Families are invited to attend the field trip every year to encourage parents to interact with their children.
Since the PAL program weekly sessions are offered in the afternoon during the weekdays, many dads do not get to attend. Ana and Cesar, parents who attended the fieldtrip, often come across this barrier, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting to learn how they can be leaders to their two daughters.
“Since I work a lot, I enjoyed coming [to the zoo] with my girls,” Cesar said. “I work Monday through Friday, so this is the few times I can enjoy time with my daughters.”
It is common in a traditional Hispanic household for dads to be the primary breadwinner making it a challenge to meet the demands of work and family.
“We definitely enjoyed the time with our daughters at the zoo,” Ana said. “[A trip to] the zoo is important because we unite – as mom and dad – and show [our children] different things that exist here so they can apply it to their daily lives.”
The field trip to the zoo highlights the importance of parent and children interaction. Parents read signs to their children and help them establish their understanding of colors, shapes, and textures through animals and plants.
“After today we want to show them more animals than they think they know exist because my daughter pointed out ‘a tiger,’ but we had to explain the difference between the white and orange tiger,” Ana said. “Children grow with an idea that animals only exist in one type of family. Even my husband and I also learned that there are different types of wolves.”
Ana has taken steps to prepare her daughters to pursue an education by attending the PAL program. Since she began attending the evening sessions at Van Zandt Guinn Elementary School she has learned her key role as a parent to get her children to graduate high school and go to college.
“As Latinos, we have an idea that it’s better to work than put more attention on the education of our children and that is not true,” Ana said. “The reality is that we came to this country to be better and give our family a better life. Not everything in life is about money and things, its more than that, its dedicating time to our children.”
As parents who did not get to complete their education, they want their daughters to “go to a university because it’s very important to be people who are prepared,” Ana said. “If you are prepared, you can accomplish many things. And us – as a family – we have made it a goal to show our daughters that going to college is very important.”
Education is vital to the future of their family. As a father, Cesar wants his daughters “to be somebody and have a better life.”
Since starting the program, Ana and Cesar have learned how important it is to read to their daughters at home. Even though Spanish is their preferred language, and their daughters are not able to read yet, they buy books and magazines in English and Spanish with pictures to allow them to use their imagination to create a story from the images.
“For us, [the PAL program] has been good because we come from families that [believe] we had to go learn at school, not at home,” Ana said. “We now know that is not true, that learning begins at home.”
Ana and Cesar have two daughters: Celina (3) and Dagna (1).
The program is designed to help parents interact with their pre-kindergarten level children and help them develop their speech and language skills.
The field trip is sponsored by the Parent Engagement Collaborative. Because of The Morris Foundation, The Miles Foundation and The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, low-income families are receiving the tools and resources they need to pursue a higher education.