John HoltPhoto by Dave Romero

John Holt unwittingly became involved at Parkside Elementary in 2005, when his wife attended a PTA meeting and volunteered him to chair the playground committee. “I did not know exactly what I was getting into, and sometimes regretted it,” admits Holt, father of Autumn, 11, and Shelby, 7. “But I would not trade the experience for anything, and I owe my current level of involvement to that moment.” Through Holt’s coordinated efforts, the PTA raised $27,500 for a new playground, which includes separate equipment for primary and intermediate grades, a walking track, and fitness equipment for adults.

Holt’s contributions at Parkside include everything from directing parking and constructing a “haunted hallway” for the fall festival to coordinating the school’s Derby Day event. He served as PTA president for two years and is currently cochair of the Reflections art program. In 2010, Holt was named a semifinalist for a state-level parent involvement award. He says there would be “missed learning opportunities, missed teachable moments, and missed friendships” if he weren’t involved in his daughters’ education. Furthermore, says Holt, “It lets them see that learning is important to us and allows us to instill other core values along the way.”

One of Holt’s most memorable volunteer moments came when he was making a routine visit to the school. “I was walking out of the school and a little girl walks up to me and asks, ‘Are you the one helping us build a playground?’” he recalls. “She grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘Thank you!’ It was really heartfelt.”

Parkside Elementary principal Patti Stevenson says that Holt has helped the school become a better place through modeling parent participation for others. She also praises his ability to collaborate with community organizations like the Lions club. “He values students, staff, and his fellow parents,” Stevenson says, “and continues to seek out ways to make positive contributions to our school community.”