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

Research has consistently shown students’ success to be highly correlated with the level of their parent engagement. When parents are involved, students achieve more, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ education level.

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.

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.

How the Natural Leaders Program Works:

  • Currently, our online training academy consists of a 1.5 hr session, once per week, for 5 weeks. The training academy is held twice per year at this time.
  • These trainings are open to school staff and parents, however parent leadership will be centered.
  • Natural Leaders training highlights effective collaboration between families and staff.
  • Parents become empowered through leadership and social-emotional  learning. They then work together to implement them into their school communities. Staff learn ways to center intercultural families and let them take the lead. 
  • For more information on how to get started, see our downloadable Natural Leaders One Pager

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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