Clear Paths, Bright Futures, No Limits: Family Engagement at Niles Township High School District 219

May 02, 2024

What does family engagement really mean? In a country rich in diversity, how can public schools intentionally bring families into the fold of their child’s education journey?

Niles Township High School District 219 in Illinois, serving approximately 4,700 students, hosted over 100 participants for AASA’s Authentic Family Engagement Summit last month. The district embraces a wide spectrum of cultures, with over 90 languages spoken and 60% of students fluent in two or more languages.

So, what does the district say is a key to family engagement? Cultural humility. A focus on cultural humility allows them to deliver a quality educational experience across cultures and languages.

It’s not just about engagement, it’s about a true partnership. We encourage and support our students and families to bring their authentic selves to school every day.

Roszena Haskins, Deputy Superintendent, Niles Township High School District 219

Talented students of the district’s Fine and Applied Arts clubs provided entertainment during the site visit.

Student band players welcoming attendees to the building
Student Jazz Band playing at D219.

Attendees had an opportunity to explore different aspects of family engagement including:

  • Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) 101: What Educators and Families Need to Know and Why!
  • Curving the Family-School Engagement Cliff: Sender School Partnerships
  • D219 Family Liaisons: Breaking the Ice for Parents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
  • Educator and Parent Well-Being
  • Panorama: Enhancing Family Engagement in Social-Emotional Learning
  • Normalizing the “AND” Conversation at School and Home
  • Powerful Partnerships through Nonviolent Communication
  • A Historic First: The Journey to Assyrian Language and Culture
Group photo of leaders of the Assyrian Language and Culture Course at Niles District 219
Group photo of the educators and leaders invoved in the Assyrian Language and Culture Course at D219.

The Assyrian Language and Culture session stood out during the visit, shedding light on the inception of the first accredited program of its kind in the United States; a course offered to students from all backgrounds. Originating from the sizable Assyrian community in the Skokie area, this program is a testament to the cultural richness and educational diversity fostered by local demographics. Close to 300 students are enrolled in this course, which the D219 team deems critical as it not only educates students but also provides Assyrian families with a platform to feel heard and engaged, offering an authentic representation of their culture.

Bridges Adult Transition Center

Attendees also went on a trip to visit the district’s adult transition services center, Bridges Adult Transition Center. This 48,000 sq. ft center serves young adult learners with disabilities, helping them develop vocational skills, independent living skills, and secure employment. They toured the building’s many spaces, including a laundry lab, office lab, apartment lab, kitchen and even a Target lab. The Target lab allows students to get hands-on experience and learn every area of retail without having to leave the facility.

District staff say this unique facility benefits not just their students, but also their families and the wider community. The video below shares more about the Center:


The three-day summit also included a wealth of passionate family engagement experts and champions:

  • Denise Diaz, director, family engagement, & Brad Keating, executive director and engagement officer, Clark County School District (Nev.)
  • Joan Hallagan, co-founder & Will Schejbal, owner, Will’s Place (Ill.)
  • Reyna Hernandez, senior director of research and policy, National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement
  • Ryan Hurley, midwest deputy director, Coalition for Community Schools, Institute for Educational Leadership, (Washington, D.C.)
  • Rachel Lloyd-Fowler, principal, At Risk director, Jefferson Learning Center, Molen School District #40 (Ill.)

Students succeed when families, schools and communities work together. This is a shared responsibility.

Reyna Hernandez, senior director of research and policy, National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement
Attendees at the authentic family engagement summit in Illinois
Group photo at the Bridges Adult Transition Center, D219.

Authentic Family Engagement

Do you want to learn how to engage families as true partners to boost student achievement?

Registration is open for AASA's Authentic Family Engagement Certification Program! This certification program features a series of six carefully crafted modules and one in-person leadership summit to help you unlock the secret to student success.

Questions? Contact Stephanie St. John, AASA Leadership Network project coordinator, at

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