Latino students represent more than a third of all students in Colorado’s K-12 schools; however, they have some of the lowest graduation rates. Research shows that students who begin kindergarten less prepared have a harder time catching up, if they ever do.
Realizing the importance of early childhood education, the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition (CSPC) created PASO to help close the opportunity gap before it even starts. PASO stands for Providers Advancing Students Outcomes, and it started in 2006 as an intensive 120-hour early childhood education program.
When Cesiah Hernandez heard about this certification, she was excited about the new opportunity. A part of her was also hesitant to apply because at the time, she said she was undocumented.
What Hernandez didn’t know, was that CSPC was already working on changing policy to make sure undocumented people had the same opportunity as everyone else to get and use this certification.
When PASO aligned with the Council for Professional Recognition’s Child Development Associates credential, it was only open for providers with social security numbers. In 2015, CSPC advocated to get rid of that requirement successfully. Hernandez saw that and it gave her the last push she needed to apply.
After CSPC reassured Hernandez that there was no documentation requirement to take PASO or apply for the CDA. CSPC also informed her that they were advocating for a bill that would allow people to apply for professional commercial, and occupational licenses including childcare licenses, regardless of their immigration status.
“When that law (SB21-199) passed, that gave me even more motivation to keep going,” she said.
When Hernandez completed the program, she was offered a job as a PASO coordinator. “We say so many times, ‘We wish things were different,’ but what are we doing to make that happen?” questioned Hernandez. “For me, it was taking PASO to make that difference for our future.”
“I’m so excited that I’m able to call Cesiah a colleague,” said Lorena Garcia, chief executive officer of CSPC. “The Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition has a mission of ensuring that our education system is set up to help families have great educational outcomes. No matter where they’re from or what languages they speak.”
Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition was established in 1980 by a group of parents who wanted better for their children. Together, they began learning and teaching others about their rights as parents and exploring effective ways to support their children’s early development and education.
Today, CSPC offers programs, courses, and other community resources that support schools, parents, students, and childcare providers throughout Colorado. They believe every child deserves access to a high-quality education, so we help bridge opportunity gaps by investing in educators and caregivers, like Hernandez.
“I’m passionate about working close with my community and building relationships,” said Hernandez.
About 90% of their staff is made up of Spanish-speaking immigrant women, half of them are hired directly from their programs. “We are for and by the communities that we serve,” said Garcia.
The Denver Foundation believes that access to a well-funded and racially equitable K-12 education system is critical for communities in Metro Denver to thrive. That is why we support the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition’s commitment to investing in our future generations.
This nonprofit has been a grantee of the foundation and its donors since 2001, and a Community Grants Program grantee since 2021.
Photos courtesy: Armando Geneyro