PHARR - Despite living in the US for over 20 years, Ana Alvarado shared she just learned about her Constitutional Rights at a session offered during the 3rd Annual PSJA Parent Conference held Friday, Nov. 2.  

Alvarado was one of over 300 Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD parents attending the annual conference offered at the Napper Parent/Community Education Center through the PSJA Parental Engagement Program. In addition to learning about their rights, parents had the opportunity to learn about other important topics such as parent empowerment, graduation requirements for seniors, domestic violence, bullying, substance abuse awareness, and even immigration.  

“I had no idea that I have the right to an attorney or to remain silent,” said Alvarado after attending a session offered by representatives from the local non-profit organization, ARISE. “This is simple information that most of us don’t know even though we’ve lived here for so many years.” 

According to the PSJA Parental Engagement Director Olivia Benford, the topics discussed at this year’s conference were selected based on numerous requests by parents. Nearly 30 PSJA ISD Parent Educators were present to assist during the event and some were even trained to teach sessions.  

“Our goal was to bring information and resources that are important to our parents,” said Benford. “Our district takes the time to do these types of events because we want to have an educated community and empower our parents to be informed.” 

Besides learning about her rights, Alvarado shared being grateful for the opportunity to learn about the high school graduation requirements. 

“As parents, it's difficult to understand what our kids are required to do in order to graduate,” said Alvarado whose son is a 12th-grade student at PSJA T. Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School. “It’s great that the district is taking the time to help us understand so that we can know how to help our kids with what they need.” 

A mother of four children currently attending PSJA ISD schools, Alvarado shared being grateful for the opportunities her and her family have received from the district. In addition to having two kids participating in the Early College Program, one currently attends Liberty Middle School, and another attends Kelly-Pharr Elementary, the 40-year-old shared that she is also participating in the free classes offered through the PSJA Parental Engagement Department. 

“One of the biggest challenges is communicating with our kids without speaking English,” said the PSJA parent. “I want to be a role model for my kids, so my goal is to earn my GED in English.” 

Through the district's nationally recognized parent program, over 6,000 PSJA ISD parents currently participate in free classes in any of the eight Parent/Community Education Centers throughout the tri-city area. At these centers, parents are able to earn college credit and certifications through partners like South Texas College and the Region One Education Service Center. Courses include ESL, GED, Citizenship, Nutrition Arts & Crafts, Welding, Auto Mechanics, and even Security Guard Certifications.  

According to Benford, PSJA ISD is proud to provide educational opportunities for both students and parents. 

“This is a service that we provide for our parents every year,” said Benford. “When parents are well-informed and educated, they become advocates and are better able to help us achieve student success in all fields.”