Do You Know of a Great PTA Advocate?

As we approach National PTA’s 120 year anniversary, it is important to stop and celebrate some of our members’ accomplishments. PTA has been a leader in working to improve the lives of all children—advocating for everything from hot school lunches to universal kindergarten.

As the Vice President of Advocacy for National PTA, I have the pleasure of traveling across the country and hearing from PTA members about their advocacy efforts, challenges and successes. At National PTA’s 2017 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, we want to honor the incredible accomplishments of PTAs and their members.

The Dec.18 deadline is fast approaching for nominations for the 2017 Advocacy Awards, so if you know of an outstanding youth or individual PTA advocate, or know of a local unit or state level PTA that has done great advocacy work, nominate them to receive an award for their efforts from National PTA.

As in previous years, advocates may also nominate themselves in the youth and individual categories. Local and state category-winning PTAs will receive a monetary award. Nominations must be for efforts made in the last year.

The 2016 advocacy award winners were some of the most impressive advocates I’ve seen in my years as a PTA member. Massachusetts PTA, the state PTA winner, advocated on behalf of LGBTQ youth. Their efforts led to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously passing a measure to update the school system’s policies related to LGBTQ youth, which hadn’t been updated since 1992.

The local PTA award winner, Rochester Community PTA Council, worked to educate all PTA members and families communitywide on the specifics of a $185 million bond issue to make much-needed renovations and upgrades to school facilities, technology and infrastructure. The improvements would ensure students in Rochester are provided a high-quality education and have a safe environment in which to thrive and learn. With the efforts and contributions of Rochester Community PTA Council, the bond issue passed with 73% support.

The individual award winners were equally impressive. The Youth Advocate of the Year, Brian Rodriguez, worked to promote civic engagement and increase community involvement among youth of all ages in the Miami area. Joy Grayson, the 2016 Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year, led South Carolina PTA to adopt an annual legislative platform; organized and moderated an annual state legislative conference; and revamped the state membership unit to become a state advocacy unit, which engaged community members in PTA who had no affiliation with a local unit.

These two individual advocates and two state PTAs are just some of many examples of the incredible work that PTA members and PTAs are doing across the country.

That’s why we’re excited to hear about other standout PTA advocates and celebrate their efforts to improve the lives of all children with a 2017 Advocacy Award. For more info on how to nominate a person, PTA or yourself, visit PTA.org/AdvocacyAwards or contact Lindsay Kubatzky. Deadline for submission is Dec. 18!


Shannon Sevier is the vice president of advocacy for National PTA.

Celebrating Advocacy, the Cornerstone of PTA

Left: The first board of managers at the first national convention in Washington, DC.
Right: Outstanding advocates named at the 2012 Legislative Conference in Washington DC. Image courtesy of Lifetouch.

When was the last time you really thought about the existence of child labor laws, juvenile courts, or the availability of hot lunches in school?

Chances are these issues aren’t at the forefront of your mind. Over the past century, these subjects have become an indelible part of our society, so much so that we rarely think about what life would be like if they weren’t around.  All of these landmark policies for children share a common origin; like most efforts related to kids, they started with a parent or group of parents who had the courage and motivation to demand better for their children.

It’s advocacy and it’s what PTA is all about.

Advocacy has been the cornerstone of PTA’s mission since our founding in 1897, during a time when, for many families, an education for children was simply out of reach. Today, advocacy remains at every level of PTA, culminating each year at the PTA Legislative Conference where National PTA recognizes outstanding advocates from across the country.

When you think about being a champion for change, keep in mind that no effort is too small or too big to be considered advocacy. Advocacy is often a gradual process; when PTA members began their push for child labor laws, the change didn’t happen overnight.  With advocacy, being successful on a year-to-year basis does not always mean that your ultimate goal is met. Advocacy takes patience, a consistent effort, and building blocks toward your goal.

As you think about the past year and what you are most proud of as a member of your PTA, consider filling out a nomination form for the 2013 Advocacy Awards for an outstanding advocate in your PTA. State and local award winners will receive a complimentary trip to the National PTA Legislative Conference and a cash prize to help further advocacy efforts. Individual winners (Shirley Igo and Youth Advocate) will receive complimentary travel and registration to the conference.

If you’re interested in more information, please visit the 2013 Advocacy Awards page on the PTA website.

Nominations are due December 5, 2012.  PTA Advocacy Awards are recognized in the following categories: Individual (Shirley Igo); Local/District/Regional; State; and Youth.


Mollie Van Lieu is an Advocacy Specialist at National PTA in Alexandria, Virginia. Contact Mollie at mvanlieu@pta.org.

Tribute to a Life Led in Service, Senator Edward M. Kennedy 1932–2009

Earlier this year, PTA presented Ted Kennedy with the National Congress of Parents and Teachers Founders Award for his lifelong dedication to service. From his efforts to outlaw segregation through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to his continual support of Head Start, Sen. Kennedy has played a significant role in far more aspects of federal policy than I can recount. But it is his role in supporting children and families that will always stand out most prominently in my mind.

He was a strong supporter of launching federal aid for public schools, and helped ensure that a free and quality public education would be available for every child. He also helped author bills requiring employers to provide unpaid leave after childbirth and establishing the Department of Defense’s revered child care system. On the issue closest to his heart—healthcare—Sen. Kennedy helped create the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. As a true advocate for children, he also knew the importance of parent involvement:

“Good citizenship begins at home, with the values that parents teach children. Parenting is a challenge in any era, but never more so than today. Parents know that every hour spent working overtime is an hour away from their children. If they can’t attend a PTA meeting or a school play or a sports contest, they lose an opportunity to learn more about their child at school. They know instinctively that the quality of their skill as parents affects the learning of their children, their sense of the future, and their contributions to their communities in their own day and generation.”

We supported many of Sen. Kennedy’s legislative efforts, including the Public School Repair and Renovation Act, the Keeping Parents and Communities Engaged Act, and his bill to provide relief to students and schools affected by Hurricane Katrina. We were proud to have him as a guest speaker at the 2004 PTA National Legislative Conference, but prouder still of all he managed to accomplish for children during nearly 47 years in the Senate. We now stand in mourning with the rest of America at the loss of a great champion for children.

Until Next time…

Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors

National PTA President