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By Camille Lozano

The first day of school is especially nerve-wracking for immigrant parents who don’t speak English and aren’t sure what to expect for their children. But San Diego-area parents don’t have to go it alone thanks to the Parent Institute for Quality Education, or PIQE.

The 30-year-old institute coaches parents through every step of their child’s education, and its offerings are available in 16 languages.

“I am convinced that PIQE impacts our community,” says Laura Puga, a PIQE parent whose own experience reveals the value of the program.

Puga began attending PIQE classes when two of her daughters were in elementary school. Now, one daughter has graduated from San Diego State and become an associate director for PIQE in San Diego. Another graduated with a double major in mathematics and statistics. And a third, her youngest, is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of San Diego.

“PIQE improves family circumstances,” says Lorena, one of Laura Puga’s daughters. “My path opened the way for my sisters, but my parents opened that path.”

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PIQE believes that parent engagement equals student success. Learn how to get involved and support our mission to help children achieve their full potential.
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More than 90 percent of parents successfully complete PIQE’s initial nine-week Engagement in Education Program. Then they can continue for a two-week course in learning how to help support their kids in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.

The STEM course is tailored to specific challenges presented in elementary, middle and high school, focusing on topics such as establishing collaboration between the home, school and community, preparing to meet the university admission requirements, and recognizing the importance of grade point average.

“We are trying to take away the notion some students — and parents — have that they’re not qualified to go into those areas of learning, that those are for the smart kids, for the special kids,” says PIQE President and CEO David Valladolid. “We’re really demystifying STEM. We’re letting the parents know they have to make sure their kids are taking algebra in high school, understanding math and science, and enrolling in accelerated programs.”

The work of parents isn’t done when they finish learning about how to support their children’s education. Many of them agree to make calls to 100 other parents to encourage them to get involved with PIQE. They share their stories with their fellow parents and ask them to commit to the future of their children by attending the nine-week program.

SDG&E has been a major partner in this effort as a long-term corporate sponsor of PIQE’s Parent Engagement in Education and STEM programs. SDG&E was the first corporate sponsor of PIQE 30 years ago and has continued its support of PIQE’s critically important work through the years. To date, more than 640,000 low-income parents have graduated from PIQE, and it has enhanced the education of more than 1.9 million students.

PIQE expanded its “Best Practice Model” to 10 other states and even another country — Mexico. But its growth has been stunted due federal cuts this year of $1.2 million.

The organization hopes to continue to expand its model nationally and globally, empowering parents everywhere to truly be advocates for their children.

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