With just 120 students at the school, the St. Mary's Catholic School Home and School Committee’s list of accomplishments rivals those of larger parent groups. After declining enrollment threatened the Tomahawk, Wis., school’s existence a few years ago, a new principal and some energized parent group leaders took action. To get more families connected and involved, they decided to provide dinner at every meeting—and made sure those meetings were well-organized and to the point. They also emphasized fun for everyone: A gala fundraiser for adults is preceded by a “kids gala” with a DJ and a break from wearing the school uniform. Many events were opened to the community at large, including a Halloween haunted house and costume party. For a communitywide mother/son night, the parent group provided dinner, a movie, popcorn, and play money so the boys could take their moms on a date. Field trips for students ranged from local farms to the science museum in St. Paul, Minn., some four hours away.

What the judges loved: The parent group at this small private school built participation with a focus on organization and fun but also strived to increase its profile beyond the campus. They hit all the bases: involving parents, serving kids, supporting teachers, and engaging the community.

Cool fact: The Home and School Committee sponsors a student-run bake sale during an annual Harley-Davidson motorcycle event in town; all profits are donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.