Engaging Families

According to research, when families are engaged in their child’s early learning experiences (for example, in child care or pre-K settings), they are more likely to be engaged in their child’s education when they enter the formal K-12 school system. Likewise, when families are engaged in their child’s formal school experiences, their children often show improved performance in all grade levels, regardless of a family’s background or socio-economic status.  Thus, parent engagement is integral to student success.

The SUYI’s Family Engagement program works with parents of children attending Pre-K-12th grade in the neighborhood assigned to attend Bailey Gatzert elementary school. Family engagement is based on the idea that engaged and informed parents will successfully support their child to reach his or her full academic potential. We recognize that parents are their children’s first teachers, and we endeavor to partner with parents, schools, and community organizations to support children in all grade levels. Our work empowers families to advocate for their children and to help guide the educational career of their children.

Find out more about our programs:

  • Bailey Bears Read at Home
  • Family Talk Time
  • STEAM Ahead Events
  • Strengthening Families Program


Bailey Bears Read at Home (BBRAH)

Through generous funding, Seattle University (SU) and Bailey Gatzert Elementary (BG) are able to provide  literacy resources to all pre-k, kindergarten ,and first grade families at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, via BBRAH. By placing appropriate literacy materials directly into the home, BBRAH avoids many of the barriers that usually face family literacy programs, such as a lack of literacy materials in the home due to limited resources, or language/cultural minority families’ unfamiliarity with American educational practices. Concurrently, the program encourages greater family engagement by providing clear connections between using the resources in the home and children’s academic achievement and reading skills at school.

Literacy materials are distributed in kits at 3 special Literacy Night events throughout the academic school year, where families receive information on the purpose of the resources and how they could be used in the home to support student academic achievement. Each student receives a literacy kit containing books and items carefully selected by their teachers, to include literacy materials aligned with the curriculum and students' reading levels, as well as culturally and linguistically relevant materials. Tote bags are donated by Target, and each bag typically includes up to $100 of items and materials to be given to students and families at the event.


Family Talk Time

Family Talk Time is a four to six week program at Bailey Gatzert Elementary that is intended to support ELL families in learning more about the school and engage in conversations that happen at school.  The program is designed have families speaking as much as possible as they learn interactively, with a focus on improving English skills through content-based instruction.  Program participation is on a drop-in basis, typically once a week from 9am – 10:30am.  The program includes 30 minutes of “coffee chat” time with Bailey Gatzert staff and or community members that can serve as resources to Bailey Gatzert families and students. The program is administered by contracted ESL Instructors.

The main objectives of the program are to increase knowledge of facts that pertain to Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, increase parent self-efficacy (parent feels increase ability to navigate the school), and increase English language skills specifically around content that happens in an elementary school setting by engaging parents in conversations about their children, education and the Bailey Gatzert environment.

STEAM Ahead Events

The STEAM Ahead! program provides Bailey Gatzert Elementary (BG) students with rich experiences outside of the classroom related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. These include school day field trips and out of school time events shared with family members. These STEAM Ahead Family Engagement events offer many BG students and their families the opportunity to participate in different cultural events happening in the city of Seattle.

The goals of the program are to build students’ “background knowledge,” capture students’ curiosity and sense of exploration, prepare students for college and career, engage families in their children’s education and build a sense of community.

Strengthening Families Program (SFP)

The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a seven week parenting program for parents and their 10 to 14-year-old children.  An evidence-based skills training program housed at Washington State University (WSU), SFP has been found to significantly reduce behavior problems and delinquency, as well as increase school performance. Child maltreatment also decreases as parents strengthen bonds with their children and learn effective parenting skills. SFP builds on protective factors by improving family relationships, parenting skills, and youth's social and life skills. Topics discussed during the sessions include but are not limited to dealing with stress, negative peer influence, goals, managing emotions and more. Each session is run by trained facilitators, and child activities are provided for younger siblings under the age of 10.

The goals of the program are for families to communicate better and more frequently, for both parents and youth to be better able to manage anger, for parents to keep children involved in the family as they transition into adolescence, and for family tension to decrease after participation in the program. SFP has proven successful with families of diverse backgrounds. Scholarly research has found that SFP increases family strengths and resilience and reduces risk factors for problem behaviors in children, including behavioral, emotional, academic and social problems.

Questions? Interested in getting involved? Contact Colina Barlow, Family Engagement Manager, barlowc@seattleu.edu or 206-220-8573.


I have a great time in Family Strengthening [program] and I hope….[SUYI] will continue to offering this programs for our community!


I’m so happy to be part of Strengthening Families class. The favorite part is went parents and kids get together to share some ideas. This program is wonderful thank you!