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The LACOE Board Room in Downey is usually quiet and empty on weekends. But on Saturday April 1 it was packed with 100-plus parents who came to learn how to help their children succeed in school.

It was the first-ever countywide conference for parents whose children are served in LACOE's Juvenile Court Schools and Alternative Education programs.

Some came from as far away as Palmdale for a morning of workshops and motivational talks.

"We're focused on engaging families and bringing a message of support and hope for parents of at-risk students," said Jael Ovalle, who coordinates LACOE's Parent Education and Consultation Program.

Superintendent Debra Duardo welcomed participants and shared LACOE's new strategic plan. "I'm committed to providing the best possible services to your children," she told the group.

Following the conference theme of "Overcoming Adversity," keynoter José Gadea offered advice on how deal with hardship. He encouraged families to not lose heart, not give up easily, not blame others, identify goals, make decisions and be persistent and patient.

Workshops were offered on a range of topics such as developing a college-going culture, career technical education options and drug abuse awareness.

"I loved it and it helped me a lot," said one parent of the conference. "Thank you for making me feel that I'm not alone."

So far this school year, LACOE's Parent Education and Consultation program has offered some 200 free workshops around the county benefiting more than 800 families.

The April 1 conference was supported by the assistance of 29 volunteer students from Cal State L.A. and Cal State Dominguez Hills.

For information, contact Jael Ovalle at 562/401-5534 or email ovalle_jael@lacoe.edu.

Photos: Supt. Debra Duardo presented LACOE's new strategic plan to 100-plus parents attending the conference. Keynote speaker José Gadea engaged families with advice on how to overcome adversity.

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