Moving America Forward

A High School That’s Open Late — But Not for the Kids

June 24, 2014
A High School That’s Open Late — But Not for the Kids
Leila Amirhamzeh teaches a free English course to parents in Hackensack, N.J. Richard Dinardo
As its immigrant community grows, the Hackensack, N.J., school district is offering ESL courses for parents, which is helping their children's education.

These days, Hackensack High School in New Jersey stays open long after the kids have gone home. The classrooms are filled by students’ parents, seeking their own education.

“To take ESL classes in the U.S. is very expensive, so when I heard they are giving English class in the high school, I said I want to go,” says Albina Cruz, who came to the U.S. as a teenager, but didn’t feel pressure to learn English until she had children of her own. “I know that it’s very hard when [they] do homework and don’t have anyone to check if it’s right or wrong,” Cruz says.

The mother of two is one of 350 parents who have participated in the new program — launched in 2012 by the Hackensack school district where 60 percent of students are Hispanic — designed to help immigrant parents become more involved in their children’s education. Diana Bermudez, parent outreach facilitator for the school district, spearheaded the program and says parent attendance at school meetings has more than quadrupled since the program began. 

recent study published in the New York Times confirms there is no clear consensus on whether parental involvement does improve a child’s academic performance, but Bermudez says thats not just about academics, its also about building a stronger community. “We try to work as a team where everyone can give back, everyone can do a little something to help us all move on and that’s the culture we’re creating.”