Academics and Enrichment

2 Million Minutes

With encouragement from the PTO, some 540 students at Grand Valley Elementary in Orwell, Ohio, logged 2 million minutes of reading in the 2013-14 school year. The PTO kicked off the reading challenge with two assemblies, offered monthly prizes, and tallied minutes read each week.

66 Years and Counting


Ray Ninness

Generations of students in Amherst, N.H., have had their first theater experience thanks to the Amherst PTA, which has been staging plays and musicals since the 1950s. Parents and community volunteers run the show, which has become a major fundraiser for the PTA.

Making Connections

To line up guests for its monthly STEM Fridays, the Weatherstone Elementary PTA in Cary, N.C., mined resources in the community—guests from tech companies and local colleges and even beekeepers, who discussed how STEM concepts relate to their fields. The PTA also sponsored a Saturday STEM Expo in 2013, where kids could dig for fossils, learn about robotics, and watch rocket launches.

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Community Service

Winter Wheels


Rick Davis

Each year since the mid-1990s, volunteers at the bike drive at Charles F. Patton Middle School in Kennett Square, Pa., collect, refurbish, and distribute more than 200 bikes to children from low-income families. The Patton PTO leads the bike drive, which has grown to include multiple community groups and also provides families with food, toys, and winter coats.

Weekend Food Pantry

For students who rely on free or reduced-price meals at school, weekends can be hungry times. That’s why the PTO at Nate Perry Elementary expanded the school nurse’s small food pantry to send home backpacks filled with food. The Liverpool, N.Y., group started the program in the 2012-13 school year, collecting donated food and gift cards. On Fridays, teachers give the backpacks to bus drivers, who discreetly hand them off as students get off the bus.

School Uniform Giveaway

With a high rate of families living in poverty, the Grover Cleveland Elementary PTSA in Erie, Pa., found a significant way to help families at the start of the school year: a back-to-school uniform giveaway. In fact, the PTSA collects enough gently used uniforms throughout the year that in 2016 the event was open to all district elementary schools.

Hands-On Help

As part of the Civic Responsibility Project at Frances DeMasi Middle School in Marlton, N.J., in the 2010-11 school year the PTA organized four community service activities for 8th graders: cleaning up trash and tires dumped in the woods, serving meals to the homeless, visiting nursing home residents, and visiting patients at a children’s hospital. After volunteering, students gave presentations to their peers on what they had learned.

Facing Adversity

ABE Strong

Families at Amy Beverland Elementary in Indianapolis, Ind., faced a terrible time in January 2016 when principal Susan Jordan died on campus in a school bus accident. The Amy Beverland Family Association responded by fielding questions at a school district press conference, hosting a candlelight vigil, and setting up places where people could share memories, make cards, and grieve.

Staying Afloat

The Lyons (Colo.) Elementary PTO had everything under control for the 2013-14 school year until a thousand-year flood swept through. Even as board members camped in their homes without utilities, they kept the PTO going with a morale-boosting jogathon and family events.

After the Storm


Claude Dunning

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the building at St. Alphonsus Catholic School in Ocean Springs, Miss., survived the storm, but much help was needed. The PTO helped the school community by sorting through donated school supplies, offering tuition assistance, and working to bring back a sense of normalcy.

Rebuilding Trust


James Schnepf

When the Parent Association of Lincoln School in Port Washington, Wis., discovered during the 2006-07 school year that a former treasurer had stolen thousands of dollars from their group, officers worked with law enforcement to build a case, explained the situation to angry parents, and put procedures in place to help ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Major Projects

Cleanup Crew


Sara Press

The Parent Club at Malabar Elementary in Los Angeles, Calif., had big goals for a campus makeover, but didn’t have a big budget. The solution was a large-scale volunteer effort that drew more than 1,500 people to a Beautification Day in 2009. Families and community members painted two large murals, planted a garden, gave walls fresh coats of paint, and more.

The Science of Play


Stew Milne

Parents at West Parish Elementary in Gloucester, Mass., built a play space that helped students learn science concepts (complete with a 47-page curriculum), which opened on the last school day of 2005.

Healthy Habits

Concerned about the childhood obesity she encountered as a pediatrician, a parent at Mariposa Elementary helped create a new PTA health and fitness committee to encourage students to explore new fitness routines and eating habits. They developed fun and educational activities throughout 2012-13 at the Redlands, Calif., school.

Inspiring Involvement

Small But Mighty

In the tiny town of Fort Smith, Mont., where the elementary school served a total of 23 students on the Crow Indian Reservation, the PTO raised $150,000 in two years to fund a library. It opened in the 2002-03 school year with 3,000 books, computers for student use, and a host of multimedia equipment.

The Fun Factor

In a community with a large transient population, the Cotton Action Team at Hattie Cotton Elementary in Nashville, Tenn., focused on fun to build excitement and encourage more involvement in 2005-06. The group recruited celebrities to a reading night, launched a parent volunteer program, and drew record attendance at events.

Thriving in a Recession

The economy of the rural area served by Saxton Liberty Elementary in Saxton, Pa., took big hits in the late 2000s; several families went from two incomes to none. Despite that, the PTA found ways grow membership, meet fundraising goals, and hold events like a school play, a family festival, and field trips.

Standout Events

Dads, Doughnuts, and Dirt

When the Calahan Street Elementary PTA in Northridge, Calif., received a grant from an environmental group in 2004, it needed volunteers to plant trees. The PTA came up with a creative solution: It added tree-planting to its Doughnuts With Dad event. Almost 200 people attended, eating doughnuts and planting more than 50 trees.

Fun and Eco-Games

The Albert Hill Middle School PTA in Richmond, Va., held an Eco-Fest in 2008 where families could learn about composting, bid on trash-to-treasure works of art made of recycled materials, and wear a harness and climb a tree.

Game Show Night

Fans of game shows like the Newlywed Game and Family Feud enjoyed Family Entertainment Nights at Anna C. Scott Elementary, which were modeled after one of the popular game shows each year. In 2001, the Home and School Association at the Leonia, N.J., school organized the Schoolywed Game, in which teams of teachers and administrative staff members competed and tried to crack up the crowd.