CASA Leading the Way on Educational Partnerships

Posted May 19, 2016 /

Communications Manager
Cell. 240.706.2624

WHERE: Langley Park/McCormick Elementary School
8201 15th Avenue, Hyattsville, MD

WHEN:  10 a.m. to 2 p.m. SATURDAY, MAY 21st 
WHOEducational Experts, Parents, Students, Teachers   

CASA Leading the Way on Educational Partnerships

Hyattsville, Md., May 18 _ The importance of CASA’s efforts to raise educational standards for all children will be among the topics addressed Saturday when The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ Maria Pastrana speaks before parents, students and teachers during a day-long event.

The Learning Together Conference will take place from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. atLangley Park McCormick Elementary School and will feature Pastrana, a veteran of educational issues, speaking on ways to reduce the achievement gap for Latinos students.

Pastrana praised the progress made by CASA in the two years since Learning Together began operating in the Maryland area.

“CASA understands that the key to unlocking the full potential of our Hispanic students is to ensure that their families are part of the journey,” she said.

The Learning Together Program has enrolled 588 families since its inception and served more than 700 students. Among the program’s most successful features are their two-generational approach to programming which includes building leadership and advocacy skills for parents and literacy focused learning experiences for children.

“Most of the parents in our program are Spanish speakers and may know little about the educational system in this country,” said Zorayda Moreira Smith, CASA’s Senior Director of Schools and Community Development. “We want to give give them the tools they need to succeed.”

According to a 2012 report from the non-profit Child Trends, family engagement is crucial to student achievement and can also alleviate or even prevent behavioral problems. For school systems with non-English speaking populations, it’s important to effectively relay information to parents and make dedicated efforts to keep them involved, the report said.

The Learning Together Education Conference is focused on bringing resources, information and networking opportunities for parents and guardians so they have the tools to improve the educational experiences of their children and also hands-on learning activities for the children of participants. Much of the focus will be centered around issues such as raising cultural awareness, increasing college readiness and academic achievement.

CASA’s Learning Together program is one of 236 Bright Spots in Hispanic Education. These are programs, models, organizations, or initiatives that target, address, and/or invest in key education priorities for Hispanics throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico and are helping close the achievement gap from cradle to career.

Conference workshops will be lead by CASA staff and experts. The conference will be open to all family members in the area.

CASA is the foremost Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region and a national leader in building power and improving the quality of life in low-income Latino and immigrant communities. Its vision is for a future in which diverse and thriving communities live free from discrimination and fear, and work together with mutual respect to achieve full human rights for all. Over its 30-year history CASA has established itself as a strong national leader in innovations for Latino and immigrant-focused services.

Maria Pastrana Lujan, Senior Advisor, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Ms. Pastrana Lujan is a Senior Advisor at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics on detail from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  As such, has been the point person for the Initiative’s national call for Bright Spots in Hispanic Education which seeks to highlight the good work being done by organizations across the nation to close the educational achievement gap for Hispanics.  As part of this effort, she is leading the Initiatives Bright Spots in Hispanic Education Google+ Hangout series on College Access, Early Learning, Post-secondary Education, Family Engagement, STEM, and Latino Teacher Recruitment, to further amplify the work of our Bright Spots.  Maria also serves as the liaison between USCIS and DOE on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and is part of the DOE DACA working group and Immigrant Steering Committee.
At USCIS, Ms. Pastrana-Lujan serves as the Multilingual Engagement Coordinator responsible for developing and implementing a national outreach strategy to provide access to USCIS services to the limited English proficient (LEP) community.  Ms. Pastrana-Lujan has also served as an Advisor on outreach for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were she directed a series of events using social media to disseminate information about the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace to the Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese LEP community.  Prior to joining USCIS, Maria worked with the Department of State at the American Embassy in Mexico City where she served as a Special Assistant to the US Ambassador coordinating protocol and communication with Mexican government officials.
Ms. Pastrana-Lujan is a graduate of San Diego State University and is a resident of Arlington, Virginia where she lives with her husband, two daughters and son.