Bilingual and Proud: GSE and the NJDOE Score a Success with the First-Ever Bilingual Parent Expo

November 28, 2017

In September, Rutgers GSE partnered with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to host a statewide event geared towards the parents and guardians of English language learners. The event, “Parent Expo: Biliteracy for Student Success,” was the first of its kind, offering attendees a full day of engaging, informative, and affirming activities.

The NJDOE, the GSE, the New Jersey Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages/New Jersey Bilingual Educators Association, and a number of local school districts worked together to leverage a variety of academic, legal, wellness, cultural, community, and state resources to support the event. The expo included exhibits by community organizations and informative workshops on the Seal of Biliteracy, parent engagement, and the rights of undocumented students.  Children who attended participated in engaging activities and guided tours of the Rutgers University campus.

GSE Director of Local and Global Partnerships, Mary Curran, commented on how this type of event is especially important for our community. “New Jersey is fortunate to be a state populated with people from many diverse backgrounds, which enriches our local culture and community,” said Curran. “The Parent Expo empowered our English language learner families with information and resources that will enable them to advocate for their children in a wide variety of contexts. We felt it conveyed a strong message of affirmation and support.”

Prior to the event, New Jersey Commissioner, Kimberly Harrington, expressed the NJDOE’s excitement for the expo, remarking that they are “thrilled to welcome hundreds of  parents to the Rutgers—New Brunswick parent expo.” She added, “The event will provide important parent resources to help improve the experience of bilingual learners across the state. The Department would like to thank Rutgers for being a thought partner in this initiative and for collaborating on this celebration of learning.”

Testimonies from parents and guardians who attended the Parent Expo speak to its success and the influence it proved to have on the New Jersey community. “One of the things my 18-year-old daughter told me is that [after the event] she more clearly understands the importance of speaking two languages,” said one mother. “We also learned that there is a lot of support like counseling, web pages, community programs, and university scholarships.  Even my little children, who are 5 and 8, told me that when they are older, they want to study there in the university because it's beautiful and the people are friendly," she added.

Cindy, another parent who participated in the event, offered her gratitude for the efforts made by the NJDOE, GSE, and their partners. “I want to thank the organizers of the event. I am proud of being a parent volunteer, and this has motivated me to continue to be part of my children's education. These are the steps we must take to have better opportunities.”

More information about the event including photos and presentations can be found here.

Pictured in photograph from left to right: Karen Campbell, Director Office of Supplemental Education Programs, New Jersey Department of EducationPeggy McDonald, Assistant Commissioner, New Jersey Department of EducationSusana Matos-Kruck, Keynote Speaker; Jacquelyn León, Bilingual/ESL Educational Specialist, New Jersey Department of Education; and Mary Elizabeth Curran, Director of Local-Global Partnerships, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Who to contact:
Elizabeth Boyle