In an effort to help Hispanic parents, especially those new to the country, get involved in the school system, Elisa Montalvo, a Hispanic achievement specialist for Howard County schools, developed an academy for them.
"We have many parents who are newcomers to the country, and they don't necessarily know how to assist the children and be better partners with the schools," Montalvo said. "We invite parents at the elementary level because it's easier for parents to learn the strategies while the kids are small."
The academy "graduates" parents of elementary school children every year, and then follows up with them four times a year.
Montalvo, who has been with the school system for 3 1/2 years, also created a Hispanic Youth Symposium, which meets yearly to discuss education issues. For her work, she is being honored with the Horizon Foundation's Youth Development Award.
"We were extremely impressed by her ingenuity and how she had set up a support system that went beyond any individual school," said Horizon President Richard Krieg.
According to Montalvo, the children are performing better as a result of the stronger bond her program has built between Hispanic parents and the school system.
"We have had many students that have qualified for scholarships, many of them are taking advanced courses; many of the little ones are performing better in school," Montalvo said.
"I think [this award is] just a sign that there is a growing Hispanic presence in our county that needs to be celebrated and addressed," she said. "I think that's what makes me receive the honor with joy, because it's beyond me as an individual."
The Horizon Foundation awards one individual every year based on the person's impact in the community and history of service.