Advocacy Spotlight: Gun Violence Prevention

Gun violence is such an overwhelming issue in our nation, it can be paralyzing to think about. How can you as one parent, or even as one PTA unit, make a difference? Thankfully, there are PTAs who have been paving the way, and we had the chance to talk with three representatives from Mercer Island PTA Council, Lori Cohen-Sanford, Erin Gurney, and Gwen Loosmore.

Mercer Island PTA Council has been advocating for gun violence prevention since 2018. They shared with us their lessons learned and advice for like-minded groups.

What do families need to know about gun violence and gun violence prevention?

Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for youth in our country. Over half of those gun deaths are suicides. Everyone has a role in gun violence prevention. If families do own guns, they need to make sure they are safely stored. Families need to feel comfortable asking if there are guns in the home, when their children go for a playdate– just like they would share about any allergies or ask about pets or swimming pool safety.

What strategies have you found most effective when advocating for gun violence prevention?

It’s crucial to know your platform. Familiarize yourself with National PTA’s position statement. Mercer Island PTA Council has made a habit of laminating them and bringing them everywhere!

Don’t forget that PTA is an advocacy association. We speak on behalf of all children ESPECIALLY on behalf of children’s safety. We have the authority as PTA members to advocate for these positions. It’s helpful to have or establish a state platform, as well. We have found that parents want to act, so it’s helpful to give them something to do – specific bills to support, newsletters to read, encouragement to ask about guns in the home at playdates, etc. We really say that we are doing the advocacy work one conversation at a time. It’s also important to remember that every parent wants the violence to stop. There is a lot of common ground and we need to normalize the conversation around firearms in our society.

What advice do you have for PTAs who want to make gun violence prevention a higher priority in their school, district or state?

Talking about gun violence can make a lot of people nervous because it’s become a political issue in our country and we don’t want our schools to become split by political divides. The challenge here is to remind people that PTA is an advocacy organization and we’re advocating for student safety. What we are trying to do is change the culture in how we talk about gun violence prevention. Even gun owners are supportive of a lot of these measures.

Find like-minded parents and get organized. Consider going to non-PTA gun violence prevention organizations, like the Brady Campaign or Moms Demand, to find other local parents who share your passion.

Overcommunicate. If your leadership is concerned keep them informed of everything you’re doing, before you do it, share why, and how it falls into National PTA’s mission. National PTA already has a position statement on gun violence, and a website on family resources for school safety and questions you can start with that you KNOW falls within what PTA has authorized – start there!

Every community, every PTA, every individual has a specific set of experiences and what works for Mercer Island PTA Council might not everywhere. However, what is absolutely universal is people need to feel empowered and they need to know that they have the power to create change if they bring themselves together around this issue.

Curious how you can talk to your kids about these issues? Tune in to our podcast, Notes from the Backpack, to hear Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez share tips on talking to your children about gun violence in developmentally appropriate ways!

 

From One Parent to Another: How to Support Your Kids’ Learning at Home

Last week was tough. It was Week One of our new normal. For me, that means I was at home trying to juggle my job and my children. As I’m sitting here writing this, my 13-year-old is texting me to get his younger brother to quiet down so he can do his virtual math. I agree with my teen: I also need quiet so that I can work. And yet younger brothers need to be free to make some age-appropriate noise.

None of us are experiencing much peace and quiet in our household. On the contrary, there’s a ton of digital noise and a scramble to connect my kids to their teachers. We’re so busy coordinating their virtual learning — and my virtual working! — that we’re missing out on the best learning we have to offer them as parents: conversation around a book shared between us.

The most important thing a parent can do to support their kids’ reading growth is to ask questions before, during, and after reading. That’s the magic formula. It has always been true, and it is never more important than now.

As parents, we may not deeply understand the science of reading the way that educators do. But we still have something absolutely fundamental to offer our children: We can sit down with our children and a book. We can point out letters and tell them what we know about letter sounds. We can talk with them about the ideas and pictures in the book.  We can ensure they associate books with love and belonging. There is no smaller classroom than a family’s living room, and there is no better way to personalize instruction than through a parent. After all, what could be more personal than a parent and child sharing a book at bedtime?

When you’re reading with your child, it’s helpful to keep in mind a simple view of reading: to read well, children need to be able to figure out the words and they need to be able to understand the story. All of us stuck at home right now with our kids can absolutely help our children figure out the words and understand the story.

I know that any family can succeed at this because I’ve seen it firsthand. Thousands of families from all across the country join Springboard Collaborative every year to learn how to better support their children’s at-home reading. They plan for reading time every day and commit to asking questions before, during, and after reading. These Springboard partners are moms and dads, grandpops and grandmoms, aunts, uncles, siblings, neighbors – with varying degrees of literacy, but all sharing the common distinction of being caring adults committed to supporting their children’s learning. They take their responsibility as at-home reading coaches seriously, and their kids’ literacy development has proven that just as every child can learn to read, every family can learn to coach a young reader.

Never in the modern history of our education system has the importance of family engagement been more apparent than it is right now! ~50 million children are home from school and likely will be for the remainder of the school year. Parents, how can you ensure your kids don’t fall behind in their reading? Springboard is here to help!

Check out Springboard’s new family resource page (linked here). We made you a user-friendly coaching plan with weekly strategy videos, daily lesson plans, and corresponding e-books! Parents are being bombarded with content, which can be more overwhelming than it is helpful. Springboard’s resource portal focuses on “the how”, not just “the what.” We’re also giving parents free access to Springboard Connect, an app with strategies tailored to your child’s current reading needs. Finally, we’re offering parent workshops virtually on Facebook Live (in English and Spanish). Any family can sign up for these supports for free.

Check out the family resource portal, come back often, and follow Springboard on social media for the very latest #ReadFor15. We invite any family to use these resources free of charge. We implore all families to set aside at least 15 minutes every day during the quarantine (and beyond!) to ask questions before, during, and after reading. The simplest action is often the best one, and, by taking this simple action, you’ll be on track to transform these weeks at home from an educational barrier to a springboard for your child. You are your children’s first and best teacher—now is your time to shine!

With gratitude and respect,

Aubrey White
President, Springboard Collaborative

 

6 Things Parents Need to Know About E-Cigarettes

Many parents have high school memories of classmates sneaking cigarettes and of the Marlboro man, Joe Camel, and Virginia Slims ad campaigns that made cigarettes seem ubiquitous and cool. Over time, public health education campaigns and effective public health policies have driven smoking rates to record lows, and made smoking more like the exception than the rule. But now there is a new threat to our kids’ health in the form of e-cigarettes –nicotine-loaded products about which many parents have little knowledge, and to which tweens and teens have flocked as a result of appealing flavors, deceptive marketing, and plenty of exposure. We want to help you change this narrative! Here are 6 things parents need to know about e-cigarettes.

1.) It’s not just an “other kids” issue

We know this is hard news to hear, but it is highly likely that e-cigarettes are in high use at your kid’s school. Nationally, over in four high school students and one in ten middle schoolers use e-cigarettes. That’s 5.3 million teens altogether, which means that even if your child is not using e-cigarettes, they almost certainly have friends who are. Rates of youth e-cigarette use more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, to the point that the U.S. Surgeon General declared the problem an “epidemic.”

2.) E-cigarettes come in deceptive forms

One reason many parents are unaware of the widespread use of e-cigarettes is because they don’t look like regular cigarettes. Many of these products look like pens or flash drives, and they can be disguised as watches or tucked into the sleeve of a hoodie.

3.) The tobacco industry is actively targeting kids

If you’re wondering why so many middle and high school students use e-cigarettes, kid-friendly flavors and marketing play a big role. E-cigarettes are sold in a huge variety of appealing flavors, from gummy bear and banana ice to mango and mint. Studies have found that most youth e-cigarette users use flavored products and say they use these products “because they come in flavors I like.”

4.) E-cigarettes are highly addictive

Another reason why there’s a rise in e-cigarette usage is because e-cigarettes are formulated to be highly addictive. The over 15,000 kid-friendly flavors hide the fact that e-cigarettes can deliver massive doses of nicotine, a highly addictive drug. For example, a single pod (cartridge) of the popular Juul brand delivers as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. Even now, as Juul stopped selling some flavors, newer disposable brands, like Puff Bar and Mojo, continue to lure kids with dozens of flavors and look just like JUUL with even higher doses of nicotine. Kids are also using refillable devices like Smok and Suorin, which they can fill with nicotine liquids in a variety of flavors and nicotine strengths.

5.) Any positioning of e-cigarettes as a positive thing is just wrong

You may see positive messaging about e-cigarettes, and it’s just wrong. A 2016 Surgeon General’s report concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, causes addiction and can harm adolescent brain development, which impacts attention, memory and learning. E-cigarettes can also expose users to harmful and carcinogenic chemicals such as formaldehyde and lead. And studies have found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become smokers.

6.) You have power!

It’s really important to remember that you have power in this situation! Educate yourself on these products and leverage your voice to help end this epidemic. A growing number of states and cities have passed laws banning flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill to do the same, called the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act,” but the Senate has yet to act. So contact your elected officials at all levels and urge them to take action to protect kids.

We realize that it can be scary to wrap your head around another worry in relation to your kids. But you have taken a big first step here by learning what the products look like and learning the risks. And what about next steps? We recommend talking to your kids about the health risks of e-cigarettes and creating an open dialogue with them and calling your elected officials.


Jessica Cohen Senior Director of Strategic Communications Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jessica leads Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Protect Kids: Fight Flavored e-Cigarettes campaign to end the youth e-cigarette epidemic and spare a generation from the grip of addiction to nicotine. https://fightflavoredecigs.org/resources-for-parents/

How Life360 Crash Detection Helped Save Our Boys

On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, my two sons, ages 16 and 13, were driving on the freeway and collided with another car. The car veered off the road, down an embankment, hit a tree and flipped over.

Every parent’s nightmare.

I’m a therapist and never look at my phone during a patient session, but it kept buzzing. I knew something was wrong as soon as my receptionist knocked on my door.

Fortunately, we have a Life360 membership with Crash Detection. The sensors had detected a collision and immediately, a Life360 representative contacted both my wife and me. Even though I couldn’t be reached right away, they’d already dispatched emergency services.

I immediately left the office and my wife and I used Life360 to direct us to the exact scene of the accident. When we arrived, the police and ambulance were already there – and thankfully, the boys didn’t have a single scratch on them. We feel very, very blessed.

It was a day that could have gone much differently, but thanks to Life360 Crash Detection and first responders, it didn’t.

We have four kids, which you can imagine gets pretty hectic. From helping keep my family coordinated on a daily basis to knowing that my kids are safe (and vice versa), Life360 has truly changed our lives

 


 

Ryan Darrow is a Life360 member, husband, and father of four. Here, he shares how Life360 Crash Detection helped protect his teen sons as driver and passenger when every second counted. Crash Detection is available for free at http://bit.ly/394eDtu

National PTA Gives Federal Policy Update

Last night, March 25, the U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion dollar COVID-19 #3 relief package. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote and pass the bill Friday, March 27, and then it will go to the President for his signature, which he has indicated he will sign.

In related news, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue will participate in the President’s Coronavirus Task Force’s daily briefing to discuss online learning and school meals. There is no set time for the daily briefing. Most 24-7 news networks carry the briefing live.

What’s in Congress’ C-3 package?

Overall, education received $30.9 billion in aid to provide short term relief for students and schools impacted by the coronavirus.

The bill created an Education Stabilization Fund that provides flexible funding to get out the door quickly and go directly to states, local school districts, and institutions of higher education to help schools, students, teachers, and families with immediate needs related to coronavirus.

The fund provides:

  • $13.5 billion in formula funding directly to states, to help elementary and secondary (K-12) schools respond to coronavirus and related school closures, meet the immediate needs of students and teachers, improve the use of education technology, support distance education, and make up for lost learning time.
  • $14.25 billion in funding to institutions of higher education to directly support students facing urgent needs related to coronavirus, and to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures. This provides targeted formula funding to institutions of higher education, as well as funding for minority serving institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
  • $3 billion in flexible state funding to be allocated by formula based on the needs of their elementary and secondary schools and their institutions of higher education.

There is also $100 million in targeted funding for Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) which provides resources to help elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education recover from a traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.

The legislation also includes almost $25 billion for food assistance programs, including nearly $16 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and nearly $9 billion for child nutrition. These resources are in addition to what was included in The Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The relief package also provides small business loans to non-profits, with under 500 employees, however the bill did not provide $25 billion in emergency aid for associations that face major financial loss due to event cancellations as a result of COVID-19. The National Council of Nonprofits has an initial analysis on What’s In the Bill Nonprofits? and ASAE: The Center for Association Nonprofits, of which National PTA is a member, has a one-pager on provisions in the bill relevant to associations and nonprofit groups. Additionally, National PTA has sent the following letters to Speaker Pelosi  and Congress  urging them to provide relief to non-profits who are hurting alongside business as result of this public health emergency.

Unfortunately, the bill does not include dedicated funding for remote and distance learning which National PTA strongly advocated for . Our association, along with many others, asked Congress to provide $2 billion to schools and libraries for Wi-Fi hotspots, connected devices and mobile broadband Internet service to ensure all students could continue their education online for the duration of this national emergency. National PTA will continue its advocacy efforts in this area to address this digital divide.

What is National PTA doing next?

National PTA is focused on ensuring that the needs of students, families and schools are adequately addressed during this global pandemic. Our association is committed to:

  • Ensuring that schools and students have the resources they need to be connected and continue their learning online.
  • Supporting students with disabilities in online learning as well as ensure they receive the services and supports they need under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). We also recognize that they may need to be temporary and targeted flexibilities for states and school districts provided within IDEA, however any flexibilities MUST protect student rights and ensure their access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
  • Securing immediate and long-term investments in family engagement. As homes have become the classroom and parents have become surrogate teachers, responsible for their children’s learning, it is essential that families are provided educational support as they rise to this unprecedented occasion.
  • Making sure students have access to school meal benefits during school closures related to COVID-19.

Our Government Affairs team is already preparing plans to take action on a likely COVID-19 #4 legislative package. The COVID-19 #3 bill is as a short-term relief package. There will be continued needs for students, schools and families related to this public health emergency. National PTA will continue to engage with PTAs and members to understand the local needs and work with policymakers to make sure the federal government responses to those needs.

For more on PTA’s advocacy and policy actions related to COVID-19, please visit www.PTA.org/COVID-19 and click on “PTA Advocacy.”

 

The Top 3 COVID-19 Legislative Packages You Need To Know

National PTA is engaged in, and closely monitoring the details of the third legislative package. Specifically, we are focused on ensuring that federal resources are able to quickly get to states and school districts, including dedicated resources to support distance learning, and that there are appropriate flexibilities provided, however we are opposed to broad waivers that raise significant equity and civil rights concerns.

Right now, negotiations are ongoing many provisions in the bill including those related to distance learning in the third package.  More details to come as we learn them.

COVID-19 Relief Package #3
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

PLEASE NOTE: The contents of this bill are fluid.  As we receive more concrete information, we will share it with you.

Latest Action: Procedural vote in Senate on 3/22 failed. Negotiations are ongoing.

Summary: The most recent plan would provide $20 billion to the Education Department to help states, schools and colleges with unprecedented disruption of every level of education across the country.

The grants to states would be determined by population and controlled by governors, who would have to allocate money to school districts or colleges that have been “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”

The Education Department would also provide some funding directly to school districts based on the share of low-income students. That money could be used for a wide range of purposes, including training and professional development, distance learning, purchasing supplies to sanitize schools and planning for long-term school closures.

There is $25 million for “Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program” in the current proposal.  National PTA is pushing for a much larger amount of funding for K-12 distance learning.

A previous iteration of the bill would have provided broad wavier authority to Secretary DeVos to waive any provision of the main federal laws governing higher education, K-12 education and career and technical education. However, under the new proposal, the Education Department would be allowed to waive only certain provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including those dealing with required assessments, state education plans and the allocation of funding. There is a provision in the bill that would allow the Education Department to make legislative recommendations on any additional waivers that need to be enacted into law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Again, please note that the contents of this bill are fluid.  As we receive more concrete information, we will share it with you.

COVID-19 Relief Package #2
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Latest Action: Signed into law on March 18, 2020.

Summary: The second COVID-19 relief package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201), would provide $1 billion in nutritional aid, expand access to COVID-19 testing and expand sick leave benefits. Relevant education- and workforce-related provisions include:

  • $500 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • $400 million for the Commodity Assistance program.
  • Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits for families with at least one child who would be receiving free and reduced-price meals and whose school has been closed for at least 5 consecutive days.
  • $160 million for home delivered meals.
  • $80 million for the Congregate Nutrition Services program under the Older Americans Act.
  • Providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with authority to grant waivers (until September 30, 2020):
    • Of statutory and regulatory provisions under the Child Nutrition and School Lunch Acts in order to provide meals and meal supplements in the event of school closures due to COVID-19;
    • Of provisions in the School Lunch Act which prevent increased Federal costs when implementing summer food service programs;
    • To States for the purposes of providing meals and meal supplements in a manner that provides appropriate safety measures. These waivers would be automatically applied to States that seek them without further application by the State;
    • To provide non-congregate feeding under the Child and Adult Care Food program, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19;
    • Of requirements regarding the nutritional content of meals, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19;
    • Of administrative requirements under WIC for States, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19; and
    • Of the physical presence requirement at the time of WIC certification (current law requires WIC recipients to be physically present when they are certified for benefits). Anthropometric and bloodwork requirements would also be allowed to be waived.
  • Providing an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide:
    • Paid leave, connected to a public health emergency related to COVID-19, to employees at organizations with fewer than 500 total employees to care for a child if childcare is unavailable. Employees would have to be employed for at least 30 days by their employer and the U.S. Secretary of Labor would be empowered to grant hardship exemptions for certain businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders.
      • The first 10 days of such leave may consist of unpaid leave, with employees being able to substitute vacation, paid leave or sick leave for unpaid leave. Employers are required to provide paid leave for leave days after such initial 10-day period. The amount of pay is required to be at least 2/3rds of the pay an employee would receive based on an employee’s normally scheduled hours of work. Paid leave would not have to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
  • Providing an Employer provided paid sick leave benefit:
    • The benefit would be provided to employees of private businesses with fewer than 500 employees and employees of public entities for illness or quarantine related to COVID-19 or the care of someone who is quarantined due to or ill because of COVID-19. Employers may exempt health care providers or emergency responders from this benefit
    • Full-time employees can receive up to 80 hours, with part-time employees receiving up to the number of hours they would normally work over a 2-week period.
    • The paid sick leave benefit would only be in effect through the end of 2020.Limits exist on daily and aggregate paid sick leave amounts provided to employees.
    • The U.S. Secretary of Labor would be empowered to grant hardship exemptions for certain businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders from the benefit

COVID-19 Relief Package #1
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Latest Action: Signed into law on March 6, 2020.

Summary: The first COVID-19 relief package, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R.6074), included $8.3 billion in emergency funding and was signed into law on Friday, March 6. The bill was focused on vaccine development, research and equipment stockpiles, and supporting State and local health budgets. The bill did not contain any education- or workforce-related provisions.

National PTA President Addresses Membership Amongst Pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has reached a critical point. Yesterday we learned that we have lost our first known PTA leader to the virus. Our utmost priority during this crisis is the health and safety of all of our members and all students, educators, staff and families. We are also committed to supporting and making sure all PTAs, children, families, schools and communities have what they need during this challenging time.

COVID-19 has and will continue to have significant impacts and implications on K-12 education and student populations. Please know that National PTA is engaging regularly with congressional staff and fellow education partners on critical issues related to COVID-19 such as state testing requirements, access and support for online learning and school meals. We’re also advocating for Congress to take swift, bipartisan action to provide fiscal and policy relief to state and local education agencies.

Today, we issued a statement calling for the federal government to provide clear and robust guidance for families and schools struggling amid the pandemic. We’ve also compiled resources and will continue to add more for our community to use to help navigate the crisis. We are working every day to provide information to support families and students and advocating on behalf of our nation’s youth.

As you and your PTA have questions regarding COVID-19, we urge you to reach out to your state and local health and education departments. Additionally, you can support efforts to assist  the most vulnerable children and families by engaging with local school districts and departments of health to determine high-need areas and collaborate with community groups—such as food pantries and other non-profits—to provide essential services and support.

Please continue to follow National PTA on social media, read our newsletters and check out resources and information on COVID-19 at www.PTA.org/COVID-19.

Thank you for everything you are doing to support families, students and schools in your states and communities during this time. We remain committed to advocating for and helping you and our nation’s families, schools and communities navigate the challenges that have arisen in this time of crisis.

Sincerely,
Leslie Boggs

Partnering for Good: Spotlighting Survivors at the Super Bowl

Each year, the NFL seeks to improve the surrounding communities of the Super Bowl host city through their Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program. As the Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA President, I knew we had to take advantage of this opportunity and help one of our local PTAs become a recipient of the grant coinciding with the Miami Super Bowl 2020.

We had a PTSA high school, Miami Beach Senior High, whose field was deemed a hazard—preventing their 2,400 students from accessing a valuable outdoor space. We knew we had to correct this situation.

Given the fact the overhaul would cost $1.2 million dollars to upgrade the existing grass field to artificial turf, we knew the PTSA could not do this alone.

So, over the course of two years, we worked extremely diligently to advocate on behalf of the school and form a collaboration with the NFL Host Committee, Steven Ross and the Miami Dolphins, the City of Miami Beach, Miami Dade County Public School (MDCPS) and of course the PTSA. We were thrilled to hear our hard work had paid off when Miami Beach Senior High was awarded the grant.

As we worked with the Superbowl Host Committee, it became clear to us that it was paramount for Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA to offer an impactful programming event to coincide with the Super Bowl for our membership. Given the fact that the Super Bowl is the number one single day/weekend for Human Trafficking, we decided to leverage the relationships we had to bring a top-line panel to our General Meeting.

Using the connections we’d made through the Super Bowl Host Committee (Woman’s Fund), we created a panel comprised of victim advocates, the state attorney’s office, law enforcement and a survivor of human trafficking. Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA procured 100 copies of the book Survivor written by the keynote speaker and survivor, Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD. Every student that attended the event received free copies of the book, which Kat individually autographed for the students. It was truly an awe-inspiring event.

The location of the event was strategically planned as well. We picked the local school which received the SuperBowl Legacy Field, Miami Beach Senior High, as the venue, as that same week we had a press conference unveiling of the Legacy Field SuperBowl Project and knew we could get press coverage. Which we did!

Given the fact the local municipality, the City of Miami Beach, had graciously donated $350K to the field project, I had asked the City of Miami Beach Mayor and Commission to come out to the event to observe the panel and give opening remarks. One of the Commissioners, Commissioner Micky Steinberg, was so blown away by the panel, she called me to say that she wanted to honor those that took part in putting together the informative event.

There were four entities recognized at a special event on Feb. 26 for raising awareness on this important topic.

  1. Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA for organizing the event
  2. Miami Beach Senior High PTSA (Local Unit who received the Superbowl Legacy Field)
  3. Keynote speaker, Survivor Dr. Katariina Rosenblatt, Founder of There is Hope for Me
  4. Law Enforcement-Detective Berni Maher, Head of Human Trafficking Division, Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD)

We’re excited about the success of this event and plan to continue this work. We had a forum debrief with the Women’s Fund at Camillus House (a homeless shelter in Miami) which included law enforcement, and There is Hope for Me. Our long-term goal is to work with the various entities, Camillus House and MDCPS to see how to bring human trafficking awareness forums like the one we hosted and into school sites during school hours to reach more children.

Remember, with time, effort and the right connections, anything is possible. Together We Rise!


Author Bio: Beth Edwards is the Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA president. She is actively involved in the community of Miami Beach, sitting on numerous education executive boards. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a post graduate certificate from Columbia School of Business. She and her husband Robert Hetzler have four children.

 

Customize Health for Your Community! With a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Apples PTA (Stamford, Connecticut)

This blog post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received a Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

The Healthy Hydration Program is a great way to promote drinking water and infused water to students and families. The program can be coupled with so many different types of events such as a Healthy Lifestyles Night or a Field Day. Since we at APPLES PTA serve a preschool, our students are three and four-years old, so it was important that we made the event as fun and engaging as we could.

Our kids loved testing the infused water! I think they really enjoyed the novelty of the little cups and pouring out of the large five-gallon infused waters. The fan favorite was Strawberry-Basil (I was surprised since basil is a strong taste).

With the help of our school’s administration, we got the word out for the Healthy Lifestyles Night via a flyer that was sent around to families by print in the student backpacks and electronically through the teacher distribution lists. Our principal was super supportive, as usual. We have a Facebook group where we posted an announcement of the night and reminders as we got closer to the date. We also sent out emails to our PTA Membership distribution list to announce the event and send reminders.

In marketing the event, I would recommend starting two weeks prior. Two weeks gives enough notice while still staying in the forefront for families because, let’s be honest, families are all running around just trying to keep up most of the time. If you do it too early, it can become background noise and compete for families’ attention against other PTA happenings you may have going on.

The biggest obstacle for us was finding volunteers. Our school administration saved the day and got the teachers heavily involved in staying for the event and running stations. We couldn’t have done it without their help!

Now for the event! We wanted to highlight the physical, nutritional and hydration parts of a Healthy Lifestyle. In order to best manage the crowd, we split them up into three groups and held the event in three rooms that rotated. We had a cooler in each room with bottled water for anyone to take from.

In one room, we had kid Zumba with a table that had fruit and veggies in the shape of a rainbow with the sign “Eat the Rainbow”. In another room, we had a fun and engaging nutrition workshop where the kids were taught about what should be on their plate. Last but not least, we had a hydration room! This room featured the Sugary Beverage Station and Infused Water Station. We also added a ring toss with bottled waters where the kids could win a variety of healthy prizes.

As a thank you gift for families that attended, we passed out gift bags that included an infuser for water, a bottle of water, and a day pass to a local children’s museum. We also raffled off play balls and little soccer balls to the kids on their way out. All this spring boarded from the Healthy Hydration Program! My advice: You can make it as big or small as works best for your school.

Take Action:


Authored by Valentina Conetta from APPLES PTA in Stamford, Conn.

Disclosure: Nestlé Waters North America is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 2019–2020 Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

 

Fun for the Whole Family! At a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Dufief Elementary PTSA (North Potomac, Md.)

This blog post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received a Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

Incorporating a Healthy Hydration Event into our PTA calendar was so easy! We hosted a Bike Rodeo and simply added the Healthy Hydration Stations at our event. Our school is in the middle of a very suburban walkable and bikeable neighborhood.

Although there are many students who ride their bikes casually, we wanted to provide a forum to spread safety tips about biking safely on neighborhood streets including how to be seen and following the rules of the road when biking on the street. We partnered with Montgomery County Safe Routes to School, who provided several loaner bikes and helmets for the event so the students without their own bikes and helmets could still attend, participate and enjoy the event.

To market our event to both students and parents we used our PTA newsletters, made announcements at our PTA meetings, posted on our website and to our PTA Facebook page. To reach students outside of our PTA members, we made morning announcements at the school and sent home backpack fliers.

We set up our welcome table, along with the Healthy Hydration Sugary Beverage Station, outside the entrances to our all-purpose room and gymnasium. We were a little nervous about attendance since the Rodeo took place during a short week before the Thanksgiving holiday. However, we had so many parents and students show up, that we had to extend the event to the blacktop outside the school, in addition to using the school gymnasium! Next time, we’d love to plan this event at a time of year when we could utilize outdoor space.

Our principal, Mr. Gregg Baron, was incredibly supportive. In addition to including the event in the school morning announcements and his weekly newsletter, he also attended the event, put on a helmet, and jumped on a bike, leading some of the students in the activities. His engagement and enthusiasm were infectious. He really made both students and parents feel welcome and excited to be at the event.

We would definitely consider having a Healthy Hydration event as part of our Back-to-School picnic, spring outdoor Dragon Fest, or other large activities in the future. We had a lot of positive feedback about the fruit-infused water from both parents and students. They were surprised that the only thing added to the water was fruit! In addition to the stations, we plan to incorporate and serve water at all our upcoming events in a more intentional way including our Math Night, Talent Show evening and family Game Night.

We had many parents and students express surprise at how much sugar was in common beverages. Adults were extremely enthusiastic about the fruit-infused water, and several took the recipes home with them. The hands-down favorite was the Lemon/Lime water.

Here are our top recommendations when hosting your Healthy Hydration event, from one PTA leader to another!

  1. Make sure that you leave ample time and space in your event for students and parents to visit the Hydration Station.
  2. Make sure to encourage parents to try the fruit-infused waters as well. We found parents were often the most interested in trying the different types of waters initially, which led to more children wanting to try the recipes.
  3. Consider encouraging parents and students to bring water bottles to the event to fill up on any leftover flavored water after the event!
  4. Think carefully about how to manage sign-ins, photo releases and follow-up surveys. We found it challenging to manage this aspect when so many attendees were eager to participate in activities right away.

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Authored by Jamie Pflasterer from Dufief Elementary PTSA in North Potomac, Md.

Disclosure: Nestlé Waters North America is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 20192020 Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.