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Expanding Access to Job Skills : The PASO Online Community of Practice

by Dana Premo on



In 1980 a group of Latino parents established the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition (CSPC) to counteract the inequities that were occurring with their children in schools. Together they began learning and teaching others about their rights as parents and exploring effective ways to support their children’s early development and education. In the 40 years since, CSPC has evolved to offer programs, courses and other community resources that support schools, parents, students and informal childcare providers throughout Colorado. 


The Story

In recognizing that addressing the extreme inequities in Latino and non-Latino children’s achievement requires early intervention, the PASO program — Providers Advancing School Outcomes — was developed to promote school readiness in Latino children, birth to five years old. The PASO design uses a community-based model for early childhood professional development for informal childcare providers. These Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) providers are able to build the skills needed to achieve Child Development Associate certification -  administered by the Council for Professional Recognition- through an intensive 120-hour program. CSPC believes that strengthening non-English speaking providers in their community will result in increased school readiness for Latino children and will ultimately work toward closing the opportunity gap. Since its inception, 1600 providers have been trained through the PASO program.

Like many, when the pandemic began in spring 2020, CSPC had to quickly shift the previously in-person PASO training to online sessions. However, this solution soon proved to be unsustainable for the diverse community of caregivers enrolled in the program. Varying levels of tech access, skills and schedules provided significant blockers for participants to access the courses. Program coordinators were overwhelmed by managing live video classes and assignments being submitted in multiple formats. CSPC knew it needed to identify a partner to help transition what was an intensive place-based, Spanish-language training program into a viable online offering that would adequately meet the needs of its community.

Community news feed and announcements 

Community news feed and announcements 


Why PASO chose Participate 

PASO program coordinators needed help adapting their curriculum for online training to  expand program access through differentiated pathways for state certification. When CSPC Executive Director Lorena Garcia heard about Participate’s CoP platform and services, the future of the program seemed within reach. Participate instructional designers worked closely with CSPC staff and program coordinators to develop a Spanish language Community of Practice (CoP), including courses that support learners through the 15-week program which helps them prepare for official state certification. Growing from one cohort to four, the PASO program continues to expand access to professional skill building. 

The Participate team led the development of instructional pathways for both synchronous and asynchronous learning and connection within the course. Instead of the disjointed set of tools (workbooks, email, text messaging) and long Zoom video sessions, the team organized and grouped the 30 in-person lessons into 6 virtual courses for a more digestible format. Course facilitation and opportunities for formative feedback all happen within the CoP to guide learners through the certification program. 

Through Participate’s design process, program manager Mirla and PASO trainer Alma were trained to begin creating their own courses and developing a community engagement strategy plan as the cohorts grew. 

Visualization of a course pathway 

Visualization of a course pathwayVisualization of a course pathway


Using Micro-credentials to capture knowledge 

Within the course creation process, micro-credentials were built for learners to earn and use as portfolios of evidence for official state certification. A snapshot of evidence such as a video clip, handwritten reflection or case example from official workbooks is captured in the micro-credential and shared for feedback with a mentor. This evidence is used to ensure that the learner can be certified by a state agency and also provides data back to the organization on best practices in mentorship and training. 

Visualization of credential status of CoP members for various courses

Visualization of credential status of CoP members for various courses

Aside from the courses and credentials, PASO leans heavily on facilitation and conversation within the CoP. Because of the asynchronous nature of the community discussion space, participants are able to ask questions and share feedback whenever they need it. This allows for real-time problem solving either from program mentors or other participants. 

Visualization of discussion participation of CoP members for various discussion threads 

Visualization of discussion participation of CoP members for various discussion threads 

The Results

The PASO Community of Practice has helped expand and grow programming in a unique way. What began as a 120-hour in-person early childhood education program is now a 6 module virtual professional development community. After the success of the first cohort and growth in facilitation capacity by program mentors, PASO now has four different virtual cohorts totaling over 220 participants, with plans to expand to six or more in the next year. New coordinators are being trained and development is underway to bring a second English program and course​ onto Participate. 

CSPC Executive Director Lorena Garcia shares that “Participate not only allows the PASO program a very necessary upgrade, it also exposes the students to online learning, preparing them if they choose to continue with higher educational studies.”

It’s not just the program participants who are building job skills. Participate’s education strategist Kimm Murfitt is most proud of the growth she has seen from the PASO program coordinators. Coordinators have learned to work with new technology, develop and launch their own content, and achieve more responsibility - even promotion - within CSPC! Empowering learning and professional growth are at the heart of Participate’s mission and we feel very grateful to be a part of the PASO story. 

Visit the Participate website to learn more about instructional design services and communities of practice or arrange to speak with a member of the Participate team.