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A new parent empowerment program, aimed at immigrants, will get underway in White Center and Federal Way with help from a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Kellogg Foundation on Thursday announced that the Washington state proposal was one of 30 selected for its new grant program aimed at helping parents become leaders in early childhood education.

More than 1,130 groups applied for $13.7 million in grants.  The 83-year-old Kellogg Foundation said that is the most applications it has ever received for a single funding opportunity.

In Washington, the money will be used for a pilot project led by OneAmerica, an immigrant rights group, along with the Road Map Project and the Seattle Jobs Initiative.

Those groups will select 30 immigrant parents who will receive leadership training and support in reaching their career goals.

The hope is that the parents will become a strong, collective voice that will help shape early childhood policies and programs in their communities, and recruit other parents to join them.

The career support is based on the idea helping parents become more financially stable has an impact on their children’s well-being, too.

Mayra Guzman, a parent mentor in Chicago, helps second-grade student Jeremiah Castro with reading at Avondale Elementary School. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

The effort has some parallels to a parent empowerment program in Chicago, also run by a community organization, that was featured in an Education Lab story late last year. Both work to give parents a bigger role in the education system and help them reach their own goals.

The new project has been in the planning stages for a few years and grew out of discussions with immigrant parents who are frustrated they aren’t involved in efforts to expand and improve early childhood programs in their communities, said Roxana Norouzi, OneAmerica’s education policy manager.

“One woman said to me: We feel like we’re being put out of caring for our own children,” Norouzi said.

If the pilot is successful, the groups hope to expand it.

Both OneAmerica and the Kellogg Foundation believe that parents, as their children’s first teachers, can be strong assets in the education system.