PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- In a word? Chaotic. That's how Lakisha Tucker describes the end of her son Dyante's 8th grade school year. It was also the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's hard to do something when you don't have a plan. And when it's so new, the teachers don't have a plan. You don't have a plan," she said. Tucker tells Arizona's Family that from her perspective, online learning led to a lack of accountability and a big fear of the unknown.

"This generation... they're so huge into social media," she said. "But I've never seen so many kids do online class and they don't want their face to be seen." Even though they are on Twitter and Instagram, Tucker noticed it was still challenging for kids to speak up in online classes. 

Thankfully she's one of 50 in the Parent Education Academy. It's a pilot program through Arizona for Latino Leaders in Education, also known as ALL in Education. The group is partnering with Chicanos Por La Causa and The New Teacher Project

"What COVID did is it uncovered all of the inequity that we have been managing as school systems," said executive director Stephanie Parra. "Whether it was food insecurity, housing and security, lack of access to a living wage for families." 

That also includes the growing digital divide. For the new project the group is focusing on areas with high concentrations of Latino students, students of color and low-income families who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

During the six-week course, parents learn the ins and outs of the school system, but also get valuable training that may lead to real careers in education. "We are training parents to become instructional assistants," Parra said. "They are going to be teamed up with teachers from our school sites and they will become a teaching team."

For Tucker, a big takeaway so far is the importance of patience while working with her son. "Even though he's learning and I already get it, I can't expect him to understand at the rate that I'm understanding," she said. 

The academy has also brought Tucker closer to other parents in her community which has been a huge resource for advice and support. While she's an accountant by trade, it's inspired her to get more involved which may include volunteering as a tutor, she says. 

Participating school systems include Charter Elementary School, Roosevelt Elementary School District, Phoenix Union High School District, Yuma Union High School District, and CPLC Community Schools in Tucson. 


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