The families at Saxton Liberty Elementary in Pennsylvania live in a rural area near the center of the state, in a small town about 30 miles from the nearest large business or social activity. Parent group leaders have always considered the local economy when planning events or raising funds, but that concern became even greater when a major employer in the community laid off 80 percent of its workers. Despite these constraints, the Saxton Liberty PTA increased its membership base, held several free or low-cost social events for families—including balloon volleyball, organized by the 6th graders—and added a school play to the schedule. The group also managed to raise enough money to build a shade pavilion near the playground. Parent volunteers helped with activities ranging from a mobile agricultural lab to a track and field day.

What the judges loved: PTA leaders worked with local civic groups to raise money, applied for (and received) several grants, and thought creatively to give parents and students fun things to do outside of school hours. To make it happen, officers spent time during the summer doing advance planning for many activities.

Cool fact: Involvement in the first-ever school play was so successful that many students opted to attend drama camp in a neighboring district the following summer.