Second Annual Spotlight Celebrates Illinois’s Amazing Children

Families from across Illinois gathered this past Saturday at Millikin University for Spotlight: A Children’s Celebration of Art and Community. The event at Kirkland Fine Arts Center showcased 11081325_10152684873140988_1690164095784135673_napproximately 500 PTA Reflections entries that advanced to the state level of judging, provided a wide variety of workshops, and recognized student artists and leaders from across the state.

The day began with a welcome (and a little showmanship) from Millikin University President Dr. Patrick White before families headed out for a wide variety of workshops. Developed by Millikin arts students and Illinois PTA leaders, the workshops focused on a variety of arts, including drawing comics, writing, working with clay, drumming, dancing, and more.

Following the workshops and fortified with cookies and punch, participants headed into the auditorium for the recognition ceremony. Highlights of the ceremony included the recognition of the special artists participating in the PTA Reflections program, awarding medals to those whose entries advanced to the National PTA Reflections judging, recognizing the winners of the two Illinois PTA scholarships, and the presentation of the Illinois PTA 2015 Outstanding Youth Service Leader awards to three amazing young people making a difference in their community. The ceremony concluded with Millikin University awarding $1,000 scholarships to attend Millikin in any field of study to the five high school level artists whose work advanced to the national level.

As Dean of Millikin’s College of Fine Arts, Laura Ledford, said in echoing the PTA Reflections theme, “The work of the young artists here today represents the continuing commitment of PTA to nurture creativity, curiosity, and wonder in the lives of our children, and Millikin University is proud to share and support that commitment. The world would, indeed, be a better place if the rich, innovative thinking and doing instilled by quality arts education had the support it deserves. Many thanks to the Illinois PTA for making the world a better place.”

Be sure to check out Illinois PTA’s Facebook page and its Cultural Arts Facebook page for lots of pictures and additional information on this wonderful event celebrating the accomplishments of our children.

Plan Now to Celebrate PTA Founders’ Day

Alice McLellan Birney aspired to create a better world for children at a time when many of them left school early in their teenspot_founders-day-01age years to begin working in factories. Alice found someone who shared her vision in Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and on February 17, 1897 they began to implement that vision with the first National Congress of Mothers meeting in Washington, DC. More than 2,000 mothers, fathers, teachers, laborers, and legislators attended that first meeting, establishing what has become the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the country.

In 1970, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers—founded by Selena Sloan Butler to serve those schools in states that legally mandated segregation—to form the National PTA. Those three women, the founders of PTA, worked to improve the lives of every child at home, at school, and in their community. On February 17th, we remember their vision, reflect on our achievements, and renew our commitment to speak for every child with Founders’ Day celebrations.

If your PTA, PTSA, or PTA Council has not celebrated Founders’ Day in the past, consider planning a simple celebration this year. Use it as an opportunity to bring your school and community together to celebrate your PTA’s accomplishments, recognize volunteers and teachers, and showcase your students’ talents. You can find numerous ideas and resources for a Founders’ Day event online, including planning guides from California PTA and Georgia PTA, among others. National PTA provides some history you can share at your event as well as a short 8-minute video on PTA’s advocacy on behalf of children over the last 118 years.

If you plan on honoring volunteers, teachers, or others who have made a difference for your PTA, consider purchasing an Illinois PTA volunteer recognition award. Available awards include an honorary Lifetime Membership, Book of Recognition, Achievement Award, Distinguished Service Scroll, and Educator of the Year Award. Proceeds from all awards support the Illinois PTA Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships annually to high school seniors who will be going into education or education-related fields (e.g., school nursing, school social work). Please order your awards three weeks prior to your event to ensure they arrive in time.

Navigate the Financial Aid Wilderness with This Federal Infographic

financial-aid-process cropIf you’ve got a high school senior in your house, your family is likely deep in the college application process and wondering how to pay for it all as well. Navigating the various types of student loans and other financial aid can be confusing, especially if you’re going through it for the first time.

The Federal Student Aid Office at the Department of Education has created an infographic to explain the financial aid process. It shows the basic process of applying for federal student aid and the various types of financial aid available.

Don’t have a high school senior? The Federal Student Aid Office has also produced a college preparation checklist for families regardless of their age. The checklist provides a list of things that students should be doing in elementary school, middle school, and each grade in high school to prepare for college and that parents can do to afford it when their child graduates. The checklist also provides resources for students to explore interests and for parents to support their child’s education.

Finally, if your high school senior is going into education or and education-related field (e.g., school social work, school nurse, librarian), has a GPA of 3.0 or higher in a non-weighted 4.0 scale, and is graduating from an Illinois public school, be sure to apply for the Illinois PTA Scholarship. The application is completed online, and the deadline is February 15, 2015.


Money for Future Teachers Available!

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The Illinois PTA has two scholarships available throughout the state each year. The top prize is $3,000 and the runner up is $2,000.

Any public high school senior that has a GPA of 3.0 or better. They must be enrolled in the education field or an education-related field (e.g., to become a school nurse or psychologist).

A completed application must be submitted by February 15, 2015.

This year’s application is only available online.

Here are just a few tips on filling out the application.

  • Don’t forget to put the county (not country) you live in, as this is vital for us to know what PTA district you live in.
  • We need a photo so if you win, we can publish the announcement with your smiling face!
  • Signature boxes! This part can be tricky, but it is still pretty easy. Just use your mouse or if you have a touch screen, you can use your finger to do the signature. If you are uneasy with a mouse, you can save your application and open it up with a touch-screen monitor.
  • Guidance counselors must sign your application, as this is a confirmation that your transcript is correct. Speaking of transcripts, they must include the first semester grades of your senior year and indicate if your GPA is 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
  • Answering the essay questions and filling out the activities and awards sections may take considerable time and space. So, start drafting early and be mindful of the amount of characters that you are limited to in the text box.