The Reverend Vahac Mardirosian is passionate about advancing educational reform for Hispanics in California. A Baptist minister born in Syria, raised in Mexico and educated in the United States, Mardirosian knows firsthand the challenges parents and students of non-dominate cultures face as they work to achieve student success. Since 1948 he has worked with Hispanic communities across the United States as a pastor, director of ministries and counselor. In 1968 he helped mediate the positive outcome of a school walkout and subsequent sit-in in East Los Angeles.
In the aftermath of the student action, Mardirosian founded the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC) to further articulate needs and advocate for reform with the school board for the predominately Mexican American population. He founded the Hispanic Urban Center in Los Angeles to provide teacher in-service training programs about the culture and heritage of Mexican Americans. Through the American Baptist Churches he founded the ABC Project Head Start Program to reach preschool children with structured academic foundations.
In 1987 parents from a predominately Latino elementary school in San Diego approached Mardirosian with their concerns about student success issues similar to the Los Angeles conditions. Together with Alberto Ochoa, EdD, Mardirosian founded the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) to train these parents in the skills necessary to encourage the academic success of their children. They launched targeted class workshops for parents of students in kindergarten- twelfth grade.
That seminar evolved into PIQE’s parent engagement program. This nine-week program, taught to parents in their primary language, trains parents to become educational advocates and supporters of their students. The Parent Institute was launched in other schools in San Diego, then throughout California.
As PIQE has grown, it has added additional offices and programs to help more families offer support so that their students can succeed academically. PIQE now operates 14 offices in five states, including licensee offices, and offers classes in 16 languages. In addition to the original program, the organization offers an early childhood development program, parent coaches program, teacher’s workshops on Effective /Parent Engagement, family financial literacy education, and a parent leadership program. PIQE also consults with school administrators offering Teachers’ Seminar, Best Practices Model, and Replication/Licensing Program.
In 2006 PIQE entered into a long-term relationship with the California State University (CSU) system to receive funding and support of its outreach and training for low-income families. The CSU campuses pledged $2.8 million to implement the Parent Engagement Education Program in five schools in each of CSU’s 23 regions.
More than 458,000 parents have graduated from PIQE’s programs. The effectiveness of the program is a documented 90% of children of PIQE-educated parents graduated from high school and more than 50 % of those students go on to college. Data shows that students of PIQE parent graduates perform at a higher level across all indicators of success.
Mardirosian’s work has helped parents of all cultures overcome the barriers to quality education. The courses are now offered in 15 different languages throughout the United States. His dedication and belief in achievement by all students has paved the way to educational reform and expanded opportunities for success.