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Families With Power

Centering Students by Engaging With Families and Community

Mary Cowhey Sonia Nieto Sonia Nieto

240 pages
Teachers College Press

What if the families of students most impacted by the opportunity gap somehow had the power to organize whatever activities they felt would best help their children succeed? That’s the question that began Families with Power/Familias con Poder (FWP), a grassroots organization of low-income students and caregivers in Northampton, MA. Through vignettes and interviews, this premiere book in Sonia Nieto’s Visions of Practice Series shares the stories and lessons FWP learned along the way. Inspired by Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy and the radical tradition of the Highlander Folk School , a group of real families with few material resources and educators connected with each other, found common ground, and built their own programs to address the needs of their children. Readers will get an inside look at the benefits, successes, and challenges of more than a dozen years of student and family engagement in the community and school as FWP tackled issues ranging from academics, race, and class to immigration and public health.

Book Features:

  • The story of how the author cofounded Families with Power in cooperation with immigrant and low-income caregivers and fellow educators.
  • Insight into multiple racial and ethnic perspectives as seen through a myriad of family engagement programs.
  • A relatable collection of narratives that bring to life Freire’s methods of problem posing, culture circles, and popular education, as well as Highlander Folk School’s grassroots organizing.
  • Guidance to help today’s teachers and school leaders connect with students’ families and community in meaningful ways.
  • The author’s experiences as a white teacher learning to bridge cultural, racial, linguistic, and class differences and building authentic relationships to better serve diverse communities.
Author Bio

Mary Cowhey is a cofounder of Families with Power/Familias con Poder. She was an elementary public school teacher for 22 years. She is a grassroots community organizer, parent, union activist, and winner of numerous awards for teaching, including a Milken National Educator Award, the Massachusetts Public Health Association’s Frontline Award, and MA Agriculture in the Classroom’s Excellence in Agricultural Science Teaching Award.