Outreach to a Diverse School Community
Good parent groups know their communities, and they do what it takes to help them feel welcome. For the P.S. 139Q Rego Park (N.Y.) School Parents Association, that means having American Sign Language interpreters at each meeting as well as recruiting parent volunteers to act as informal interpreters for attendees who don’t speak English.
The Mark Newbie Elementary PTA in Collingswood, N.J., truly put the “fun” in fundraising for a new playground with its Monster Mash family event, where parents, students, and teachers from all grades decorated the blacktop—the only place where kids older than kindergarten currently can play during recess—with a Halloween theme complete with haunted houses, ghosts, skeletons, and witches. The creative effort proved such a catalyst to building awareness about the importance of play that the PTA decided to make the Monster Mash an annual event and part of its multiyear fundraising campaign for a new playground.
Many groups struggle with how to have mother-son or father-daughter dances without leaving out kids who don’t have a parent to bring. The Polaris Educational Foundation, the parent group at Polaris Charter School in Manchester, N.H., solved this issue by holding a North Star Dance—kids were allowed to invite any adult who means a lot to them and serves as a “North Star” in their life. Attendees were encouraged to “dress how you feel best together,” whether that meant fancy clothing or sweatpants. Other family members and siblings were welcome, too.
Community Service Project
The Fair Grove (Mo.) R-X PTO partners with local businesses to hold a back-to-school event at which students are provided with school supplies, shoes, clothes, haircuts, dental checks, library cards, and more so that each child starts the year with these basic needs accounted for. Many informational and safety organizations also attend the special event, which is held at little cost to the PTO due to community donations and resources.
Progress can take time, a concept the George Crothers Memorial School Parents Group in Swarthmore, Pa., learned firsthand. The special education school housed at Children and Adult Disability and Educational Services (CADES) has just 120 students. The Parents Group formed in 2012 and wasn’t an overnight success—in fact, it was slow going for a while. But rather than becoming discouraged, the group took the time to figure out its path and build its base, learning to sidestep obstacles and work with the resources on hand. Today the group’s leaders hold successful fundraisers and events as well as appreciate new friends they have made and how far they have come together.
With only 50 students and about the same number of staff members, parent participation is critical at the Jacksonville (Fla.) School for Autism, where members of the Parent Action Committee apply their skills in a way that works for them: Some take a hands-on approach within the school, while others collect donations, identify community resources, and build partnerships. This past year, such efforts helped minimize parents’ stress as well as reduced operating expenses so that school funds could be spent on enrichment instead.