The recently re-established Latino parent group of Parents, Estudiantes, y Maestros Asociación (PEMA) held its first unofficial meeting on Wednesday, May 23 at Samohi.

Despite the unofficial status — the school district says the group hasn’t properly followed necessary guidelines to establish themselves, restricting the Santa Monica Malibu Unified District (SMMUSD) from sending PEMA communication to parents — PEMA managed to pull in nearly two dozen people to their first meeting. 

The group’s first meeting served as an introduction to the group, providing parents, students, and community members with PEMA’s mission, vision, and goals for Samohi and the community at large.

PEMA, founded by Dr. Berenice Onofre Vasquez, said their vision is to be a collaboration of parents, students, and teachers in Samohi working together to assist students in reaching a university or post-high school goals and to positively impact their communities. They hope to empower parents and families to become more involved in the academic development of Latino students at Samohi.

The meeting named members of their board and their positions and laid out qualifications to become a board member. They also included a calendar of important events they hope to assist and involve themselves in. 

In attendance were community members in support of the group and those curious about the group and their intentions including SMMUSD board members Oscar de la Torre and Maria Leon-Vasquez.

Lewis Alexander, a founder of Parent Connection Group, said he went to the meeting to “see what this group was about” and, more importantly, to see how the group would support students within the district. 

“I thought the meeting was very productive and informative,” Alexander said. “I felt like there are people in the room that are very influential, that can help guide this group in a positive way. I’m excited to see how they partner with the school and how they tackle things for kids in the community.”

Oscar de la Torre, a SMMUSD board member and an honorary member of the board of directors for PEMA, said he was there to “strengthen opportunities for students.”

“This is what public education should be about,” de la Torre said. “Partnering with parents and partnering with the community to support these kids. The Latino student population is one of the largest and soon-to-be largest groups at Samohi; the more parent engagement, the better.”

Marco Marin, president of PEMA, credits the group’s “historical first meeting” to Onofre Vasquez, and says PEMA will reestablish a home for Latinos after a “more than 13-year absence” of a group solely dedicated to Latinos. He said the group wants to give hope and open doors for anyone willing to collaborate “for the betterment of the community.”

“All Latinos, students, parents, and teachers– let’s better the lives of our students and make a better community,” Marin said. “What comes next? Let’s ask the students. It’s all for them.”