WESLACO — Joshua Donis joyfully photographed his mother, Christina Donis, walking the stage in her cap and gown.

Christina and 42 other parents from the Weslaco school district were graduating from the Parent Academy for Success of Schools, receiving their graduation certificate from the superintendent during a Friday, April 13 ceremony.

“I am extremely super proud of her because she has not had a really good quality of education, but this program really let her experience new things and it has helped her help me out in my future,” Joshua said. “I am really proud of her and I am really proud of this program.”

Joshua, an eighth-grader at Garza Middle School, expects to become a doctor and the first college graduate in the family.

“Through this program, she has learned how to ensure my future through college, and I’m really proud of her,” Joshua said.

The parents worked very hard and put in the time and effort to ensure that their children are succeeding.

The graduation is a culmination of all the hard work, dedication and parent participation in PASOS training sessions that help parents guide their children through the educational process.

“Parents, I am so proud of you for being part of PASOS, I know you learned many great things and with those great things you are going to join us and help us be better,” Priscilla Canales, WISD superintendent, said. “Ask those questions and share those ideas because that is how we become better.”

She told the graduates to keep on learning, and if we can do anything to better serve the students, let us know.

This year’s ceremony marks Weslaco ISD’s second PASOS graduating class aimed at helping the district’s students achieve educational success by making available parental engagement training.

District Judge Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt was the guest speaker for the graduation and spoke about her success that stemmed from her stable, hard-working parents.

“My parents didn’t have college diplomas on the wall; they are migrant farm workers to this day,” Rodriguez-Betancourt said.

She told the group of graduates her parents’ ultimatum: choose to be educated or choose to work with them.

She also said her parents’ primary rule was to treat everyone with respect and always work hard.

“If my parents could raise children like us, you can raise children like us and even better,” Rodriguez-Betancourt said.

For 10 weeks, the 43 Weslaco ISD parents met on Thursday mornings to learn strategies to help educate, motivate and prepare their children for success in school.

The district partnered with the Texas Valley Communities Foundation, a Mercedes nonprofit focused on empowering the Valley with its PASOS Parent Academy, a program the nonprofit offers using a number of proven academic success tools.

“Research shows that the most successful schools are those that partner with parents and share the responsibility of student education,” Roland Arriola, president of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation, said. “PASOS informs parents about the workings of the school district and provides them with the skills they need to best support their child’s education.”

Another parent who graduated from the PASOS program last week at Weslaco said she plans to go back to college and earn her degree on her way toward becoming a registered nurse.

Leticia Elizondo, 49, an LVN at Nuestra Clinica, completed the program realizing it’s never too late to graduate.

“The program really helped me a lot,” Elizondo said.

Even though Leticia has participated in ceremonies when she graduated high school and when she received her LVN certificate, she said the PASOS graduation was even more special because her children were in the audience watching her complete the parent training.

“We have had many parents share stories regarding how PASOS has impacted them,” said Erica Garcia, WISD parental involvement director.

She said there is a difference in the parents, and now they are confident to go into classrooms to speak to teachers and administrators.

“A lot of the knowledge they have learned in the PASOS workshops they can apply not only in the classroom but also at home,” Garcia said. “Now they are doing homework with their children, and I see the difference from the very first session to the last.”

She said the parents looked forward to their morning classes.

“Some of the classes in the program taught us ways to manage money to save for our children’s college, live a healthier life, and that dedication is the key to success for my kids,” said Norelia Cortina, PASOS parent graduate. “I encourage parents to join the PASOS classes because the classes offer a lot of education, and it really helps out.”

Francisca Salas has been volunteering at the publics schools for 24 years. Last week, she walked across the auditorium in her cap and gown for the first time. It was her first graduation ceremony and her children were there to see her graduate and be recognized by the superintendent for all her hard work finishing the program.

“PASOS had motivated me to go back to school and get my GED,” Salas said. “My children said if you are going to do this we are going to also graduate.”