Focus on Families

The room is buzzing with families having conversations. Some already know each other, while some are meeting for the first time. This is a continued series of events engaging families with the school in an effort to create stronger connections and communication. 

A dozen Somali families start the afternoon off with delicious Sambusa, a traditional Somali appetizer. Principal Josh St. Louis welcomes the families, with English Learner Liaisons Cani Adan and Ahmed Issa translating. 

This event is part of a bigger project, to engage families and create stronger bonds between the classroom and home. Family Literacy Specialist Lexi Lundberg started with Moorhead Area Public Schools in 2013 as a teacher, and recently switched roles. This past year she was a part of a team that worked with each elementary school to discover challenges to family engagement, find the root cause and set goals to improve. 

Each school had unique goals depending on the needs of their building, but all of the goals were focused on serving our families. Robert Asp Elementary focused on creating a unified conference experience. Ellen Hopkins Elementary focused on honoring communication frequencies and preferences for families. S.G. Reinertsen Elementary wanted to elevate an event they started pre-covid, focusing on bridging cultural gaps and creating inviting environments for our English Learner families to share their experiences. “Through our collaborative work, our goal is to honor unique perspectives our families bring to the classroom,” Lundberg says.

Zamzam Jama was attending this event for the first time and was thankful for the opportunity to connect with Principal St. Louis. “I loved this event,” she says. “I could see that you guys are so ready for our concerns and it makes me happy to be a part of this school.” Jama further explained that this event made her feel like she is not alone. “It felt nice having someone come to us and want to hear our feedback. The school is thinking about us and that makes me happy.”

Cani Adan, English Learner Liaison, with parent Luul Abdi.

Research shows that strong family engagement directly impacts a student’s academic progress in the classroom. Through intentional efforts, the school district and individual schools are working together to empower families to advocate for their child’s education. Luul Abdi left the evening with a sense of pride knowing that her child’s school celebrates diversity and unique culture. “One thing that I understood after tonight is that the principal of this school is trying to make a great connection between the parents, teachers and school,” she said. 

Important questions were answered, experiences were shared and new connections were made. This event highlights the important work happening in our schools every day to empower families and students.