April 9, 2021 by HCDE-Texas
Harris County Department of Education’s sole Parent Engagement Liaison, Gabriela Hernandez-Aguilera, has been with the Department for nearly two years and has already made herself an indispensable resource for students and their families.
Hernandez-Aguilera supports students with autism, intellectual disabilities and emotional disorders, and advocates for them within the community. Specifically, she educates parents on how to reinforce what special needs students learn at school. She also helps them address non-academic issues like food and housing insecurity that may impact students’ ability to learn by bringing together community partners and resources that support the whole family.
“Nothing beats getting a phone call from a parent saying, ‘what you did really made a difference,” she said. “In special education, if something works in the classroom but isn’t being applied at home, it’s going to be difficult behavior to change. We realized that to provide a better education, we need to support our students.”
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Hernandez-Aguilera shares a special bond with families who struggle to obtain the support they need.
“Both my parents worked really hard for the American dream,” said Hernandez-Aguilera. “I know what it’s like to go from having everything to then having difficulties and not knowing where to reach out for help – whether it’s because of a language barrier or because you are not aware of how the system works. We have a lot of parents right now that don’t know where to look for help or what that help looks like. It takes a lot of explaining and letting them know they are not alone, that we’re here to support them and be a guide for them. Parent burnout is real.”
Dr. Charles Ned, HCDE’s senior director schools, explains that the key to Hernandez-Aguilera’s success is her passion for helping children.
“She is a true asset to this division,” said Ned. “She takes pride in her work and has a great personality. She’s a people person, and that’s so important when you’re working with parents and members of the community.”
Yet, Hernandez-Aguilera feels like to she has so much more to accomplish. “The hardest part of my job is trying to help everyone but feeling like I didn’t do enough,” she said.
To learn more about how HCDE’s Parent Engagement Liaison can help you, email Gabriela Hernandez-Aguilera at firstname.lastname@example.org.