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Guest Blogger: Betsy Landers, National PTA President-Elect on Take Your Family to School Week

Each year Take Your Family to School Week (February 6-13) offers a unique opportunity to celebrate with local units across the country their individual efforts to highlight family engagement. Each year, National PTA awards monetary grants to the PTAs that conduct the most creative events during the special week. To recognize them, PTA visits the best of the best.

I was lucky this year to visit three incredible schools during the events that singled them out for national recognition. I visited schools in Alabama, Tennessee (my home state) and Louisiana. These were all great experiences for me that I’m happy to share with you...

G. W. Carver High PTSA
Historic Montgomery, Alabama is home to the award winning, G. W. Carver High. The evening was designed to promote not only family involvement in their students’ high school career, but emphasize the importance of the family-school-community partnerships. It was a great turn out of parents at the event, considering the school’s basketball team was in a playoff game at the exact same time.

Local media was there to share the news with the Montgomery community. They interviewed me on the importance of the event and parent involvement. Partnering with community leaders, Carver PTSA was able to present an event that included a workshop on the basic elements of good parent involvement by the Alabama PIRC and the presentations by local legislators, school board representatives and the District Attorney. The guest panelists tackled an extensive question and answer session that helped to wrap-up the event. Everyone in attendance left better informed on the challenges facing our students and the steps we need to take to strengthen involvement at Carver High.

Power Center Academy PTSA
Power Center Academy is a relatively new school situated in the southeast part of Memphis, Tennessee. It has a unique blend of high academic expectations and deep family involvement. I was especially impressed with this school. At PCA students are referred to as ‘scholars’ and families are required to volunteer time at school on a monthly basis. For their Take Your Family to School Week program, they hosted an “Amazing Race” for families that required parents and students to solve questions and challenges together to complete their ‘passport’ during the week. Everyone was in the spirit of the ‘race’ and working together to overcome the occasional roadblocks set up to heighten the challenge. Questions and challenges might involve art objects, an event in history or the preparation of a specific cultural food from a chosen country. It was an inspired program that had all families in friendly competition for the chance to be the winner of the PCA Amazing Race.

South Highlands Elementary Magnet PTA
What a day our trip to Shreveport, Louisiana proved to be! The South Highland Tigers had an exciting week of grade level events designed to invite families to interact with their students and the school staff. A quick tour of the school truly emphasized a wonderful working relationship between the school and families. Everywhere I turned was evidence of family involvement that served to better the overall environment of the students. The highlight of the day I visited was a Valentine’s Day lunch for the 3rd graders and their parents, followed by a school wide assembly. Indeed excitement was most definitely in the air that morning! With families in attendance, we honored the year’s Reflections winners and recognized the young writers chosen to be part of the countywide literary publication. The joy and enthusiasm on the children’s faces was not just for the special events – no, it was there because of the snow! Yes, it was snowing. A truly rare occurrence in Shreveport and everyone was giddy with excitement. It was a truly memorable day... Because of the weather, my flight was cancelled and I spent an extra night in Shreveport. Still, it was all a great experience for everyone!

It’s important to note that there were over four hundred applications and only thirty-two PTA’s chosen for their week of unique events targeted to bring greater awareness of the importance of family and community involvement. These three PTAs only serve to underscore the tremendous work being done by thousands of volunteers making a difference in their communities and in the lives of children each and every day. Wow, what an incredible week!

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