Parents Support Parents Through Community Education Worker Program

Three-year-old Daniel is all smiles when Laura Peraza walks in his front door.
“Hi! How are you? What did you do this weekend?” Laura asks in Spanish.
“I went to the beach!” Daniel beams.
As they chat, Laura kneels down on the floor and pulls something out of her black bag. Daniel scoots close to her, eager to see what she’s brought with her this time. His mother follows, kneeling next to him—all three of them now nestled together.
In her role as ELM Community Education Worker (CEW), Laura will spend the next hour singing, playing, talking, and reading with Daniel—engaging his mother in every learning moment.
First, Laura tells Daniel they’re going to play a game—she asks him to put small, medium, and large items in order on a Velcro board. One by one, Daniel organizes pictures of apples, hats, and yogurt containers. At every step, Laura offers encouragement. And when she sees his attention wane, she switches gears and pulls out a book.
The goal of the CEW program is simple, Laura says: “While we are helping children learn from a young age, we are also helping parents learn to work with and support their children—before it’s too late.”
CEWs are trained local parents who visit families in their homes and also facilitate small group sessions at nearby schools. Through culturally specific activities, lessons and discussions, parents learn about the importance of starting early to help young brains grow. They also build friendships, learn from each other and, ultimately, feel more comfortable in school settings so they can be more involved in their child’s education.
All of this helps children from culturally specific communities succeed in school starting on the first day of kindergarten. 
“What I’ve enjoyed most,” says Cecilia Diaz, another CEW, “is watching parents build relationships with each other and grow in their ability to defend their own rights and support their children before and during their school years. I’ve seen their view of education change.”
There are seven CEWs working with previously isolated families across N/NE Portland and East County. In total, CEWs are connected to more than 75 families with young children from culturally specific communities—African American, Native American, Latino, Somali and communities from Burma.
CEWs like Cecilia and Laura have a long history of working with families in their community and are passionate about serving them well. That’s no accident—strong cultural ties are an intentional and critical part of what makes the CEW program work.
“Community Education Workers and the people who support them need to know, understand and have a strong attachment to the community they serve so that they can give families what they really need,” says Cecilia Diaz.
And every day, CEWs are doing just that.
For more information about Community Education Workers, get in touch with Brooke Chilton-Timmons at