Like many parents, Sara Marjoram has been very involved in the parent organization of her children’s school. Over the last 11 years, she has served as a committee chair and executive board member for Sope Creek Elementary PTA in Marietta, GA, all while raising three wonderful children.
Getting involved in a parent organization was never something I intended to do when I began my journey as the parent of a school-age child. I remember all of the emotions that come with sending your “baby” to school for the very first time. I might describe it as the perfect storm of emotional conflict – a mixture of fear, anxiety, worry mixed with a dash of excitement, relief, and a little joy. It’s one of those “Am I ready?” moments that comes with moving to a new phase of parenting.
I didn’t dive right in to volunteering for the PTA or PTO. I still had a young child at home, was working part-time and it didn’t feel right to take on any additional responsibility just yet. I spent the first couple of years of my new phase making time to help in the classroom or sending in any extra supplies that were needed. I was honestly a little intimidated to get involved with any organization that demanded more of my time.
Fast forward 2 years when my second child began kindergarten. The emotions that I had felt the first time around were soothed by the familiarity and comfort I had developed with the school. I was feeling pretty good. Ironically, just as my daytime nest was about to be empty, we were expecting our third child. It was clear that I was going to be spending a long time at the little school that, thankfully, I had grown to love.
I am a big believer in things happening for a reason. That year was also the year that a dear friend of mine had decided to serve as the president of the school’s parent organization. She approached me about getting involved as a volunteer. Although I was initially hesitant, she assured me that she would find me a committee to be involved in that would be a good fit for me – even with a newborn. I was honestly still feeling a little intimidated, but she assured me that it would be a great experience and, as they say, the rest is history.
I am now in my 11th year as a parent at the same school. I have served as a committee chair or as an executive board member of the parent organization ever since. I have learned a lot along the way. Here are a few of the things that I’d like to share:
1. Volunteers Make Schools Better
Many schools now have to raise their own funds for activities and supplies that once were considered basic necessities. Teachers, administration and staff are incredibly resourceful when it comes to getting students what they need. Often times, the additional support of the PTA or PTO can be what makes the difference in bridging the gap -through fundraising and man power. Our school has partnered with Boosterthon, a fitness and character-based fundraiser, for over ten years, which has been critical to our fundraising success. Parent and community volunteers – whether through a parent organization or directly within the school – provide the additional hands-on resources and time at no extra expense. The more volunteers, the better.
2. The PTA/PTO isn’t Intimidating
There are a million ways to be involved with a school’s parent organization. There are opportunities to volunteer your time for a single event, to chair a committee, or to simply send in required supplies. Whether you have a full time or part time job or are a stay at home parent, there is a role to play that fits your lifestyle and time constraints. I promise it’s not scary.
3. You Can Play to Your Strengths
Volunteering is so much more enjoyable when you are able to use your natural talents. It’s important to find opportunities within your wheelhouse. When you are doing what you are good at and enjoy, volunteering becomes enjoyable.
4. Volunteering is Networking
This may sound strange but I think it’s an important point to make. Our children provide us with a valuable way to meet people. As they learn, grow and make new friends, we are in naturally presented with opportunities to interact and engage with other adults – parents, teachers, coaches, administrators, etc. Through our children, we often make new friends and connections ourselves. Volunteering offers additional ways to meet people and grow our network.
5. Showing up Matters
Children learn by example and taking an active role – in whatever capacity – makes an important difference. Children spend the bulk of their time at school. Having a presence there shows them that you are invested in their education. It also shows them the importance of being part of a larger community. It gives you the opportunity to role model the value of working together as a part of something bigger. And what child doesn’t get excited when they see a parent around their school occasionally?
I wish I had a better understanding of these things those first couple of years. My hope is that my experiences will help you find ways to get involved with your school’s parent organization. I still have 3 more years ahead of me at our elementary school and, although I am in a different parenting phase than when I started, I’m confident that I can find a way to have an impact that works for me.