Our family, like so many others, settled in South Pasadena because of its stellar schools. We knew that buying a house in South Pasadena was also an investment in our children’s education and future. What we didn’t know, but were delighted to discover, was that there is also a tremendous support network in place here to help our schools and kids succeed. The mighty South Pasadena Educational Foundation with its tireless board members and professional work ethic impressed me from the start, but it was the Parent Teacher Association that somehow spoke the clearest to me.
Yes, PTA, with its wrapping paper sales, jog-a-thons and evening meetings – when I was usually too tired to rally any excitement for parliamentary procedure – spoke to me. Actually, PTA did more than speak to me. It sidled up next to me and began a twelve-year conversation that continues to this day. Because it was only after I attended those evening meetings that I learned PTA isn’t about selling wrapping paper or hosting jog-a-thons. It’s about being a voice for our children. In fact, the organization’s motto is, “Every Child, One Voice.”
It was PTA in1924, who played a major role in the passage of childlabor laws and in the creation of the juvenile justice system. It helped create the federal school lunch program in the 1940s, and it helped organize the testing and distribution of the first polio vaccines in the 1950s. Today PTA is active in voicing the need for smaller class sizes and fair student and teacher assessments. On a more local level, we have the South Pasadena High School PTSA organizing parent forums that address such timely topics as teen stress and ways to prevent campus sexual assault – all without a bake sale in sight.
As the Legislative Liaison for the SPUSD Council PTA, I kept track of bills impacting the lives of our kids as they worked their way through our state government– bills that dealt with promoting arts education and having clean water to drink on campus. I got to see resolutions, created at the PTA unit level, make their way up the ladder and become advocacy points at the State and National PTA level – resolutions that deal with the safety and acceptance of LGBTQ students and all students’ civil rights. I got to meet with our local representatives, both here and in Sacramento, and express concern about issues ranging from budget cuts, to more budget cuts to even greater budget cuts.
And through it all, I had the opportunity to collaborate with parents who were not only involved in the day to day stuff parents are involved with at their kids’ schools, I got to work with people who were passionate about making a difference in the bigger picture and for the longer run (and have come to realization that both kinds of involvement are necessary).
So, I’m here to encourage you to get involved in our schools in whatever way you feel comfortable and in any increment or amount that suits you, because it really does take a village. And when that membership form for PTA comes home in your child’s backpack, or a link to join is sent to you in an e-mail or newsletter, remember that PTA (or PTSA, at the high school) is so much more than the cliché you see on T.V. and in movies. It is a lobbying group that has given our children a voice for over 125 years — and with your membership and any amount of time you can donate – will be able to continue to do so.