PTA Volunteers Give the Gift of Civic Engagement

voterregistration1Advocacy is what makes PTA unique. As leaders, your work and contributions are an important part of PTA’s legacy of advocacy that has held strong for more than a century.

Volunteers from the San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs in west Contra Costa County (Thirty- Second District PTA) are strengthening that advocacy voice by getting the civic-engagement word out to teens and parents in a fun – and memorable – way. When students in the council’s four high schools turn 18, volunteers send them birthday cards reminding them to register to vote. Using the theme and image of a birthday gift, volunteers designed a paper postcard and a digital ad emphasizing voting as a lifetime opportunity.

The birthday cards are an innovative way to reach a traditionally hard-to-reach audience – high-school students and their parents – to remind them about the lifelong importance of civic education and involvement.

The electronic birthday ads include links that track engagement data, allowing volunteers to provide additional voter-registration follow-up and encouragement.

Council members hit upon the idea to use voter registration as a way to reach out to students and their families, who had not been coming to local civic-advocacy events as frequently as in the past.

“This need to re-engage with this population has been perking ever since, and the council’s Voter Registration Drive is the final result,” said Thirty-Second District PTA Advocacy and Legislation Chair Robin Peoples Klau.

Klau reports that the rock-bottom-cost project – now in its second year – is being well received by all implementing partners including school administrators, teachers and student groups, and volunteers are looking at taking it even further.

“With approval of the committee and the board we’d like to translate into Spanish and, at a minimum, distribute the digital ‘ads’ to the additional six councils within the district,” she said.

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Sacramento Council of PTAs Clothes Closet Has Local Families Covered

clothescloset2Shoes pinch; socks get holes; pants hit the high-water mark – it’s time for new clothes for growing kids. But when families can’t afford items for their children, the Sacramento Council of PTAs (Third District PTA) is there to help, as it has for more than 60 years.

Since 1950, the Sacramento Council of PTAs Clothes Closet has helped more than 1,000 children a year get ready for back-to-school time – and any time September through June – with free clothing, socks, underwear, backpack supplies and more. Operated in partnership with the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), the chock-full facility is open to district-enrolled students ages 3 – 18 who can each receive a shopping trip once a semester.

Council President Laura Rios said PTA units and volunteers always have played a major role in the closet’s services.

“Unit leaders would donate their time to keep the clothes closet organized, including washing donations,” she said. “Families appreciate having access to the free clothing.”

But recent budget cuts – especially the elimination of a part-time district-funded position to coordinate appointments, staffing and donations — have created challenges. Nevertheless, community and PTA volunteers have risen to the occasion as they always have to make a difference for the closet – and for district families in need.

“The Sacramento City Teachers Association holds a ‘Tush and Toes’ drive where they challenge schools to donate and the one donating the most getting a special treat,” said Rios. “Our council also recently participated for the first time in the SHARE Fair at Cosumnes River College (CRC), with two high-school students working on their service project collecting donations of socks and undies from CRC college students and staff.”

Rios also reports that the council currently is working on a grant to further strengthen the closet’s services, and that SCUSD’s Family and Community Engagement Department has been very supportive in helping serve local families.

“When families receive uniforms and clothing, it gives more opportunity for our children to stay and be successful in school,” said Rios.

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Terri Arredondo: ‘Above and Beyond’

terri_photoPTA volunteers and members are a dedicated group, as Terri Arredondo shows each and every day.

Terri has been employed as a parent liaison and supervising assistant at Evergreen Elementary School (Whitter Council PTA, Thirty-Third District PTA) for five years, recently earning an Employee of the Year Award from East Whittier City School District.

In addition to her everyday career of dedication to children and families, Terri also is Evergreen PTA’s treasurer where she serves that office, and so much more.

“She is an amazing person and goes above and beyond for our kids,” said Evergreen PTA President Patricia Serban. “Terri is always asking if anyone needs help – she is always offering and doing.”

As Patricia shared, some of Terri’s many efforts for children and families include starting and maintaining a school community closet. “Spikey’s Closet” – named after the school’s dragon mascot – is funded by the PTA and filled with gently-used clothing and shoes plus new underwear that Terri has gathered, and even laundered herself. Terri also started recycling bins in the teachers’ lounge to help fund the effort.

“If a kid says their shoes are too tight, Terri takes them to Spikey’s Closet to look for shoes,” said Patricia. “She encourages families to volunteer and to take what they need.”

Terri also encourages all families and staff to be involved in Evergreen PTA, asking everyone in person as the most effective engagement tool. In addition to establishing a PTA Teacher Liaison to get educators’ feedback on programs and needs, she also asks the school’s English-learner parent classes to get involved.

“I let them know that they have the opportunity to make changes and be a role model for their children,” she said.

Patricia emphasized that Terri does things out of love for the kids, love for the Evergreen families and for the community.

“I love working and volunteering at Evergreen Elementary!” added Terri.

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Reda Rountree: The Heart of PTA

volunteer_mtwashingtonelementarypta_redatheamazingvolunteer_smallPTA’s amazing members and volunteers truly are the heart of our organization — you are the ones who make a difference for all our children every single day.

Reda Rountree is one example of our many dedicated volunteers and members. She began volunteering at Mt. Washington Elementary PTA (Highlands Council, Tenth District PTA) when her twin girls Ann Elise and Grace started kindergarten. She currently serves as the PTA’s vice president of programs, where she develops, implements and involves students in enrichment classes and events to meet the wide range of interests of the school’s 431 children.

“Being involved isn’t just important – it’s necessary,” said Reda. “It takes involved parents and community members to create and sustain an enriching educational experience, and the PTA provides that opportunity to schools.”

She credits her own involved teachers and parents as well as her grandfather – who spent more than 50 years in education – as setting her own personal example of engagement.

“The impact volunteering can make in a kid’s life is enormous,” she said. “Being there for a child, listening, offering love and support whenever he or she needs it – there is no better reward.”

Reda’s many efforts for Mt. Washington’s children do not go unnoticed: PTA President Bryan Irwin recently wrote a moving tribute about Reda’s giving heart for their school community.

“The human heart beats on average 100,000 times per day — it’s what we choose to do with all those beats that makes them important,” he wrote. “There is one person on our campus who gives theirs away to our children every single day: Her name is Reda Rountree.”

Bryan shared how he worked with Reda on the school’s fall carnival, which she chairs as one part of her office. But it’s not just the tireless work she put in on the carnival and the fall memories she helped create for kids, he wrote – it’s what she constantly gives of herself to the children and school.

“When Reda is on campus, children run to her to share a story, ask a question and – most importantly – get a hug, a laugh or a sweet word of encouragement,” he wrote. “Reda, thank you for showing us how wonderful life can be when you live it through your heart – a lesson you share every day with our kids and one that many adults, myself included, need to remember.”

Thanks, Reda, for all you do – and to all our amazing members and volunteers. You are the heart of PTA!

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Lourdes Beleche: Putting the ‘T’ in PTA

lourdes_beleche_teacherLourdes Beleche is all about the kids.

A nominee for this year’s Contra Costa County Office of Education Teacher of the Year, Lourdes has taught several grades — including bilingual classes — at Concord’s Cambridge Elementary School (Mt. Diablo Council, Thirty-Second District PTA) for 19 years.

“I love watching students make connections with things they are learning about,” she said. “I love seeing them learn from each other and have discussions, arguments and defend their opinions.”

And in addition to her nearly two decades of teaching dedication, Lourdes is a dedicated PTA member inspired by her mother.

“Even though my mom didn’t speak English, she joined the PTA and volunteered at our elementary school – Nestor Elementary – setting an example for me,” she said.

“Teachers are the ‘T’ in PTA,” added Lourdes, noting how important it is for teachers to be involved. “I believe that, if we want parents to be active on campus, we also need to step out of the classroom and work side-by-side with them.”

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San Diego Family Magazine: ‘#FeelingBlessed’

sandiegofamily_articlephoto“Although we were both working parents, we dove into volunteer opportunities and I joined the PTA. The following years we met countless parents as we navigated (and sometimes spearheaded) book orders, Box Tops, PTA meetings, jog-a-thons and our annual Oktoberfest. They were busy years that created many fond memories.”

Read San Diego Family Magazine Editor Lisa Gipson’s article on volunteering for PTA and the friendships that grew from attending her first meeting.