As school lets out for the summer, families’ thoughts turn to vacations, outdoor activities, and picnics, but for some, there is also thoughts of how to feed their family. For those families taking part in the free and reduced lunch program, the end of the school year means the end of the ten meals per week that their child had at school. Summer food programs can help fill that need.
More than 1,000 summer meal sites are available in Illinois this summer, funded through the US Department of Agriculture and administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Some are specific to children signed up for a summer program, while others are open to all children under 18. Despite the large number of participating sites across the state, 33 Illinois counties have no summer meal sites.
Your PTA can help spread the word on summer meal sites by sharing information with families from the Summer Feeding Illinois website. There you will find information videos, resources, and more about the program. Families can also find a summer meals site near them by:
Share these resources with your families. No child should go hungry in Illinois this summer.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) released a report detailing the results of conversations with low-income African-American students from across the country about their perceptions of their schools. That report, A Seat at the Table: African American Youth’s Perceptions of K-12 Education, presents compelling information on how PTAs can help support student success not just for African-American students, but for all students.
The UNCF report is the third in a series, following reports on the perceptions of African-American leaders and parents on K-12 education. Among the key findings of the report are:
- 89% of students believe it is important to continue their education beyond high school.
- 66% of students said doing well in school was their top priority.
- Students’ top priorities for improving their school were more engaging teachers (35%), one-on-one attention/smaller classes (24%), and better technology/computers (22%).
- Students’ concerns regarding their commute to school included trash or litter (40%), speeding cars/bad drivers (37%), gang intimidation (29%), unsafe public transportation (27%), and people harassing me (20%).
The Challenge to PTAs
When it came to the obstacles for getting into or finishing college, students reported several things that PTAs could help schools address. Those obstacles included:
- Financial: High cost of college (57%); Don’t know how to pay for it (21%), Need to work full-time to support self (19%)
- Academic: Scoring well on standardized testing (22%), Not good at math (20%)
- Support: Lack of support services in school (11%), Don’t understand the FAFSA process (10%), Don’t understand the admissions process (7%)
PTAs have an opportunity to work with school guidance counselors, teachers, and administrators to help all students overcome these barriers. Ways that PTAs could help include:
- Hosting family information nights on how the college admissions process works or what classes students should take in middle and high school to be prepared to go to college.
- Hosting FAFSA completion nights where families are walked through the financial aid process online and have completed the FAFSA form by the end of the event.
- Sharing scholarship information with families.
- Working with teachers to provide information to families on how to support their students in classes they may be struggling with.
While the UNCF report is focused on African-American students, PTAs can use the results to implement programs and events that will support the success of all students.
Bullying at school is nothing new, but a lot of what we think we know about isn’t necessarily true. Great Schools has put together a list of 12 myths about bullying along with the facts that bust those myths. Those myths are:
- You’ll know when your child is being bullied.
- Bullying is always physical.
- The bully is always bigger.
- Fighting back works./Fighting back doesn’t work.
- Bullies are the most popular kids.
- Parents have nothing to do with their kids bullying.
- If your child is a victim, call the bully’s parents.
- Boys are more likely to be bullied.
- Cyberbullying is the gateway to other bullying.
- Parents are always their kids’ best defender.
- Homophobic taunts refer to the victim’s sexual orientation.
- Schools aren’t responsible for bullying.
Children need safe and supportive schools to be successful, and stopping bullying is part of providing that for them. Read the full article to learn why each of these 12 myths are not true, then check out StopBullying.gov for more information and consider having your PTA implement the National PTA Connect for Respect program.
Graphic courtesy of US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter.
Getting people to volunteer at your events is a continual struggle for many PTAs. In fact, fear of being asked to volunteer is one of the reasons people don’t join the PTA. While PTA membership doesn’t require someone to volunteer, we still do need some folks to step up to run things. So how do you get people to volunteer?
Why Aren’t They Volunteering?
If you want to solve a problem, it is important to know why it is happening. So if you don’t know why people are not volunteering with your PTA, you can’t address their concerns and overcome them. There are many reasons why someone may not volunteer.
- They don’t get why they should volunteer.If you’re a PTA leader, chances are you had a parent who volunteered when you were a child, whether it was in the PTA, at church, or with some other organization. That example of service to others can be very powerful when we become adults, and not everyone experienced it as a child. Additionally, some people might view the PTA as something for the parents who don’t have anything better to do with their time. They aren’t aware that running a PTA is actually running a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and that PTA leaders are in reality small business leaders.
- Volunteering is out of their comfort zone.In elementary school, kids are often happy to see their parent at school helping out. By the time they hit middle or high school, many kids are embarrassed or horrified to see a parent at school. That pushback from their kids can be a real inhibitor for parents volunteering in those later years. In addition, a lot of the volunteer opportunities at an elementary school, whether helping with a class party or a school carnival, feel somewhat familiar and safe. When it comes to PTA events and activities at the older grades, the role of the PTA has shifted and the opportunities may feel less familiar, especially if their teen is pushing back on their parent being seen by their friends.
- Your PTA is seen as a clique.If your PTA has a bunch of leaders who’ve known each other for years, it can be intimidating for a new parent to step into a volunteer role as an outsider. Remember that it is the outsiders who determine if your PTA is a clique, so consider how approachable you and your fellow PTA leaders really are.
Solving Your Volunteer Problem
Successfully recruiting volunteers requires identifying potential candidates for the job and overcoming objections.
- Find hidden talents.The families at your school have a wealth of backgrounds, skills, and talents, so make sure you reach out to discover what they are—most people aren’t going to share them in public. The Cub Scout program has long relied on a Family Talent Survey to discover those hidden skills of their families. Consider developing a similar form for your PTA and sharing it at registration, Open House night, your PTA meetings, and other opportunities, especially at the start of the year.
- Recruit one-on-one.Some parents may step up with a sign up form through MemberHub or a sheet passed around at a PTA meeting, but most won’t, especially for bigger jobs. Target your recruitment efforts and find the opportunity to sit down in a relaxed atmosphere to discuss the job and why you think they would be great at it.
- Have a procedure book.A procedure book is one of your best volunteer recruiting tools. When you’re trying to fill a position that someone has had for several years, a procedure book that spells out everything they’ve done, who their contacts were, and what they spent their budget on is priceless. Be sure to let your potential volunteer know they are not starting from scratch.
- Find micro-volunteering opportunities.Not everyone has a schedule that lets them help out at the PTA event or in the classroom, but there may be possibilities that they can do on their own time as it fits in their schedule. These micro-volunteering opportunities can be an easy first step for someone to become a long-time PTA volunteer.
- Share the ball.If you’ve ever watched a soccer game with very young players, you’ve probably seen how the game ends up—a few talented kids run around kicking the ball and scoring goals while the rest chase the ball in a big clump and the coach yells for everyone to spread out and pass the ball. While the coach might be able to win the game with their few talented players, they also know that success in the future requires the kids in the clump to know how to handle the ball and that their current “stars” won’t be able to be successful in the future if they’re still trying to take on the opposing team on their own. While every PTA has their superstar volunteers, it is important that you don’t rely on them too much. Make sure that all your volunteers get a chance to handle the ball and remember that your role as a PTA leader is like that of the coach—supporting your players but not kicking the ball yourself.
Photo © 2011 by USAG-Humphreys under Creative Commons license.