Bridging Multilingual Families and Schools: Cultural Brokering as Social Justice Leadership Practice

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Kristine S Lewis Grant
Vera J. Lee
Barbara Hoekje
Karena Escalante


School districts across the United States employ cultural brokers to help facilitate the involvement of multilingual families in their children’s schools. These liaisons build bridges over the cultural and language barriers that limit educational access and opportunities for multilingual families and their children. Despite the central role that cultural brokers play in fostering equitable and inclusive schools, their leadership may be unrecognized. In this qualitative case study, we examine the cultural brokering work performed by multilingual counseling assistants (MCAs) in two K-8 schools in a diverse urban school district in the northeastern United States. The primary data are face-to-face semi-structured interviews with three MCAs from the Burmese and Spanish-speaking school communities. We provide examples of how MCAs leverage the families’ cultural capital in various dimensions of social justice leadership. This study demonstrates the role of MCAs as social justice leaders in making schools more equitable and inclusive communities. This study argues that leadership can be a distributed practice within schools not limited to formal school administration.

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