The Austin Community College familia hosted its first internal professional development workshop entitled, “Building Familia--One Step at a Time” on May 29. Organized by Manager of Hispanic Outreach Programs, Alejandra Polcik, Outreach Coordinator, Megan Diaz, UT English instructor and graduate student, Brenda Martinez, and College Associate and Faculty Liaison, Lydia CdeBaca, the three-hour workshop was designed to introduce new members of the familia to the program and to facilitate strong relationships and a sense of familia among each of the campus teams. 

The workshop started with a session introducing the Ascender familia and reviewing the roles and assets of each team member. The session ended with a Kahoot quiz featuring various scenarios and testing participants in what the best action or contact would be in each situation.

The second session offered a virtual version of the cultural wealth walk, an activity introduced to many of us in our involvement with the Ascender Foundational Summer Seminar. Each “step” the participants would have taken in an in-person session was conducted by a series of actions, such as turning your camera or mic on, taking off your mask, or making noise. By the last “step” of the activity--one focused on resistance capital--the virtual space was filled with the noise, faces, and jubilee of all participants.

The workshop continued with a presentation on Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies led by a new member of our Ascender familia, Brenda Martinez, a Ph.D. student and instructor in English at the University of Texas at Austin. Brenda coached participants in ways that they might use the personal and social identity wheels as well as liberation literacies in their own classes, regardless of discipline, in order to move from a multiculturalist focus on materials toward a culturally sustaining approach that recognizes that “half of your curriculum walks in with your students.”

The workshop wrapped up with a presentation by Alejandra Polcik, Megan Diaz, and Lydia CdeBaca on the role that families play in first generation students’ college success. Polcik explored five areas where families may positively or negatively impact first-generation students’ college persistence and completion, including support, understanding, motivation, goal achievement, and high expectations. While recognizing that bringing familias in as part of the program is an important piece of what Ascender does, the team went on to demonstrate that, even though we can’t control the level or kind of support our students get, we can act as a second familia for them to ensure that they get the most advantages from these five areas.

Participants then took some time to write, reflect, and share some of the ways they work to build familia in their roles in the program. Campus teams then took some time to set goals for building familia on their campuses and with their cohorts in the coming academic year.

“Above all, the session achieved its goal of building a sense of familia in a growing program at a large, urban college, delivering on the promise of the program to continue to scale while retaining a personal and familial ethos,” commented CdeBaca.



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