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Avonworth School District

Implementation of Hi Neighbor!

Parental Engagement
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Target group
January 2024
We knew we needed to start being more intentional in how we recognize and honor our families. Our aspiration was to create opportunities for engagement in ways that are responsive to diverse language, cultural, socioeconomic and gender backgrounds.

About the implementation

Our main hack was the “Hi Neighbor!” events and then the expansion into the Family Ambassador program. "Hi Neighbor!" is a way to learn about and celebrate important cultural events like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Lunar New Year and Ramadan, as told by families who honor these traditions and live in our community.

What did you do in practice?

The idea to host a “Hi Neighbor” event came from Avonworth’s design sprint team in 2021. The team had conducted empathy interviews in the district and learned about the richness of cultures and traditions around them. We wanted to elevate this and asked parents to help co-create an event where families could learn about different cultures, engage in an hands-on art and literacy activity related to these traditions. Through these events, not only do families learn from each other but also teachers and parents. This has built foundational trust and respect in our school community.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

With changing demographics in our community, we wanted to truly engage with our school community. We didn’t want to just involve parents and caregivers by providing a list of things to help us with (e.g., donate cookies for the holiday party) but truly have parents join us as partners. We felt that if our school and families were truly engaged, then it would provide a better support system for our students and their learning journey and that students and families would feel they belonged in our school community.


How did the hack go?

"Families see the effort the school is making and those from diverse cultural backgrounds feel more valued, appreciated and respected. They’re excited to share their stories now," shared one of the parents. The inaugural "Hi Neighbor!" event was a success. We've now hosted multiple events, including one designed by middle and high school students.

Kids were excited for the next event in hopes that their cultural celebration might be featured
Students asked other students at school to share more about their cultural celebration
Students brought their identity into the everyday classroom where they feel celebrated and proud
More parents were raising their hands to volunteer, wanting to actively engage with the school
Our family-school engagement work has begun to have a ripple effect across the school district
Teachers are incorporating different cultures and traditions into the classroom

Learning Journey

Empathy Interviews: What We Learned
At the completion of our empathy interviews, we shared our learnings with each other. One teacher had a conversation with a parent on how trust is built. The parent said that she “believes trust is built through communication, kindness, participation, and families feeling welcome.” In another interview where a parent asked questions to a teacher, the parent learned that the teacher “cares for her students and appreciates parents that make the effort to provide regular communication and insight."
Aspirational Statement
We wanted to create an even deeper connection with our families. We knew we needed to start being more intentional in how we recognize, honor and celebrate our families. With this, our aspiration was to create opportunities for engagement in ways that are responsive to diverse language, cultural, socioeconomic and gender backgrounds.
Our Hack: Hi Neighbor! Event
Our team began planning for an event that celebrated our own families in the school community. Inspired by iconic Fred Rogers, we created a “Hi Neighbor!” event that featured cultural celebrations honored by our own Avonworth families. We engaged the families to share their experiences with us and teachers helped design an activity and find a story to help learn more about their celebrations. The experience was authentic and families appreciated learning from each other.
Positive Ripple Effect

Our family-school engagement work has begun to have a ripple effect across the school district. At the primary center, holidays are incorporated into classroom learning now. It’s also led us to revise our school forms to include cultural questions. 

We are excited that the “Hi Neighbor!” series has expanded to the secondary campus. We’ve also created “coffee chats” with the principals and school administration so parents and school staff have intentional space and time to learn from each other. The school district board members have also participated in a “Be a Student for a Day” to better understand student needs which has helped embed family-school engagement into the school policy and structure. 

New Ideas: Family Ambassadors
Through the Parents as Allies team comprised of parents, teachers and administrators at Avonworth, we have created another family-school engagement hack called "Family Ambassadors." As our district is growing, we want our new families to feel welcomed by not just the school but also the community. We actively pair new families with current families in the district. In addition to the teachers, new families can turn to new community friends for guidance and support.


The Avonworth School District is a small suburban school community located eight miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh. The district encompasses a land area of 10.54 square miles in the Boroughs of Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, and Emsworth, along with Ohio and Killbuck Townships.

Avonworth School District
Avonworth Primary Center