Sep 30, 2012

Triumphs of the Week

An invitation I made for our PTO sponsored Read-a-Thon

Okay, so this week really there were more trials and tribulations than triumphs in my life, but seems like all I really write about are the challenges lately. I need to share a couple of small triumphs!

I don't know if I've ever written about this, but for the past three years I have been active on the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) board at my children's elementary school. Their school is very diverse--both culturally and economically--and it is often a challenge to figure out how to make all families feel welcome in our PTO. The primary purpose of PTO is to raise funds for school events, materials, and activities that aren't covered by the school budget. But when half or more of our school's families live in poverty, it is a difficult situation. I do not feel comfortable asking children to sell products--PERIOD. But I feel even more uncomfortable asking children who's families are struggling to meet basic needs to give money or sell products. In previous years, our PTO meetings have been contentious at times, with me arguing against product sales and looking for alternatives, and other parents arguing for product sales that include incentives for children. It has literally caused me to lose sleep. I have often felt like leaving the PTO board, but then realized that there would be no dissenting opinion if I did. Half of our families would have no real representation. I kept on going to meetings.

Last spring, I was elected President of the PTO. Our first meeting of the year occurred this week. We just wrapped up the major sales fundraising event of our PTO, and discussed our fundraising options for next year. For the first time ever, a majority of parents present spoke out against our current fundraising practice. Some argued against selling products entirely and suggested we go to a direct donation drive; others argued against selling products from the company that we've been partnering with for the past several years--a company whose staff is very pleasant to deal with but whose products are low-quality and overpriced. Overall, a majority of parents voiced a call for change. It was the first time ever that I was part of the majority. The first time ever where I didn't have to fight tooth and nail to get a differing opinion heard, defending myself from what seemed like a very personal rebuttal to my arguments. It felt good to know that I am not alone in my opinions about asking children to sell products.

Another PTO triumph happened this week when we hosted our first ever Read-a-Thon. This event came about due to a phone call I received over the summer. A local church wanted to give money to a school in need, and hoped that their funds would be used to purchase books. They wanted the books to go directly to children, and hoped that we could find a way to match their donation through pledges. As I mentioned above, our elementary school has a large population of families who struggle to meet basic needs. Asking them to pledge money is extremely difficult for me, so I began to look for other ways to obtain matching funds. The Walmart Foundation has an online grant proposal system that awards up to $1000 per grant request to community organizations that meet certain criteria. I applied for a grant and received $500!  In addition, I organized a Read-a-Thon so that families who wanted to donate more could do so.

The funds gained from the local Lutheran Church and their partner, Thrivent Insurance, Walmart, and the families who donated, will go towards purchasing a book for every child in school. Each child will read the book in class, complete school-wide activities related to the book, and invite their families to celebrate reading at a Family Night. At the celebration, there will be family friendly games and activities related to the book, and children will be able to take home their very own copy. It is an excellent event that promotes both literacy and community.  I am soooo excited that it will be funded this year by PTO--with absolutely no product sales involved. YES! That is a triumph! :)

Do you participate in your children's Parent-Teacher organization? How do you raise funds? 

After our PTO discussion this week, I am looking for more ideas. Anything we can do that does not involve low-quality/high-priced products and asking children to sell things is a good idea in my mind! Please share your ideas in the comments.

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