Natural Leaders help connect communities to schools

MARYSVILLE – Megan Carlson was in a motorcycle accident Sunday and broke a clavicle.

Despite being in a sling, she still attended the year-end banquet Wednesday for the Natural Leaders of the Marysville School District.

That just shows her belief and dedication to the program.

The goal of the program is to better connect minorities to their schools – especially if they don’t speak English. “It’s important to the school board for us to connect with all of our families,” board president Pete Lundberg said.

The Natural Leaders are taught by the Washington Alliance for Better Schools how to get multicultural families interested. Yuri Jenson of the alliance said the training is a grassroots parent empowerment program. “We show how to reach out to those families,” she said. “We provide what parents want. We create cultural awareness. We close the achievement gap.”

Jenson said when minority groups have cultural events, hundreds often attend. But it can be tough to get them to volunteer at schools.

“It takes patience, perseverance and commitment,” she said. She said Natural Leaders often gain confidence to the point they can find jobs, sometimes with the school district. That leads to the need to get others to join.

Grove Elementary School Principal Sharon Anderson is perplexed about that. “What can we do to get more involved?” she asked, adding they sponsor community coffees to build relationships in an effort to recruit Natural Leaders.

Jenson said there are different barriers to engaging parents to be involved in schools.

But a key is showing them they are needed and valued, and that they can help them make their dreams come true.

“If the parents feel it’s a place of love, more will get involved,” she said.

Wendy Volosin of the district said prior to Natural Leaders Marysville would try to connect to minority groups through Family or Technology Nights or with reading programs. When they found out about Natural Leaders, MSD joined in.

They help with projects, reading, language, field trips and much more.

Principal Cory Taylor at Tulalip/Quil Ceda Elementary said the program “is an integral part of parent involvement, increases parent engagement and provides a sense of community.”

Carlson is part of the program at that school. She got involved because her son was having disciplinary issues, and she wanted to know more about him and his teachers.

“I fell in love with Quil Ceda,” she said. “They want to understand what happened. They care about the other side of the story. They go above and beyond with our kids.”

She also has connected with the kids to the point she goes almost every day.

“So many just need love,” she said.

Carlson said she helps the substitute teachers, with recess and event planning, and more.

She said they have tried to recruit moms from the Ukraine as there are many students at the school from there.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

“We have a definite need for parents at Quil Ceda,” Carlson said.

“It’s not just trying to get the tribe involved. We don’t disclude anyone.”

Natural Leaders help connect communities to schools
Natural Leaders help connect communities to schools