Natural Leaders

Natural Leaders serve as multi-cultural bridges between students, families, communities, and schools.

21st C Marysville 2“I always have to remind people that the biggest ingredient in school performance is the teacher. That’s the biggest ingredient within a school. But the single biggest ingredient is the parent.” – President Barack Obama at Fox Senior High School in Missouri, April 29, 2009

Parent engagement programs are oftentimes top-down school-directed training programs that teach parents how to help their kids succeed in their education. These programs are designed in ways that are assumed to be best for families, however we don’t always know what would be best without centering family voices first.

The WABS Natural Leaders Program takes a different approach. Research has consistently shown student success to be highly correlated with the level of their parent engagement. The Natural Leaders Program gives families the tools to break down language, cultural, and systemic barriers so all families are empowered to engage.

The Natural Leaders Program uses an asset based model to help families identify and cultivate the skills necessary to overcome systemic barriers. Parents take on leadership roles in order to build stronger relationships with families and their children and identify best practices. They then take action in order to help families be successful in the school system, and implement their ideas in partnership with the schools.

Who are Natural Leaders?

Natural Leaders are multi-cultural parents and family members that serve as a bridge between families, community and school.

Why are they needed?

Natural Leaders represent the diversity of their school communities. Honoring their experiences and listening to their voice ensures more equity and access for all students.

What do they do?

  • Engage in new learning.
  • Create events families want.
  • Build relationships.

Strategies for Success

  • The Natural Leaders Program is driven by the needs of the community and their families.
  • Each school community has different needs and trends.
  • Natural Leaders meet regularly to discuss the needs of families at their schools and think of ideas that would support families based on those discussions.

Participating School Districts


The Natural Leaders Program has been growing for sixteen years – it was developed by WABS in 2003 with parents in Shoreline, Everett, Edmonds, Mukilteo and Northshore schools with funding from an OSPI Readiness to Learn grant. Further support in 2011 from the Discuren Foundation helped expand the program into Marysville and Monroe schools districts. The Natural Leaders Program is cited by OSPI as a strategy for improving high school graduation rates for English learners.

For more information on the Natural Leaders Program, contact

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