Inspiration from the Soccer Field

I’m a proud uncle today.

My 18-year-old nephew was just named to a state soccer all-star team in Indiana, achieving a level of athletic success that eluded both his father and his uncle. He also happens to have a 4.0 GPA and, perhaps more importantly, cares very much that he maintains it. I know he considers his dad, my brother, a role model that has helped him achieve all that he has in his life.

My brother Scott has always made Kyle and his siblings a priority. He attends their games. He coaches them. He teaches them. He works to support them, just as our father did. More than that, he’s serving as an example for other boys and girls as a soccer coach. His involvement goes beyond his own kids.

My little brother is my hero. He’s overcome adversity. He’s stuck to his dreams, even if he’s had to modify them from time to time. He’s always known what is truly important in life. Most significantly, he and my sister-in-law have raised the three finest young people I have ever met. I am biased, yes, but I doubt I would find too many people who have met Kyle, Sera and Michael who would argue this point. These kids, and Scott’s level of involvement with them, are proof positive that male engagement pays huge dividends.

Research shows that parent involvement is integral to student success. It doesn’t matter if it is one parent or two (or even more) and the gender certainly doesn’t matter. It just matters that parents are engaged in their student’s education and social life. The simple fact is that women are already involved. More men need to be involved…and can be involved. There is a tremendous untapped resource in men. That’s why male involvement is a focus of National PTA.

Million Hours of Power is designed to encourage male involvement. National PTA has applied for a $250,000 grant through the Pepsi Refresh Campaign . We can win these much-needed funds but only if you vote every day this month…and encourage others to vote, too.

My two boys are my priority, as well. But being involved in their school has made me keenly aware of the positive impact men can have on the lives of all children. Some kids need a father figure. Others need mentors or tutors. Or a coach. And that is why I will follow in the footsteps of my brother and coach a basketball team that needs a coach, despite the fact I haven’t played organized basketball since I was a sixth-grader. So if I can volunteer to coach a sport I barely know anything about, the least you can do is vote for Million Hours of Power (you can also text 102484 if it’s easier). Thanks in advance. You will be helping millions of kids with just one click.

A Personal Plea to Get Involved

The value of being an involved parent often comes in the form of smiles and hugs from your children. They show their appreciation for your involvement readily. Your involvement, even at the most basic level, demonstrates how much you care and that caring can produce a tremendous impact that extends beyond your kids.

I wish I could claim my presence as a chaperone on a field trip made the difference between David getting an A in some class rather than a B. I can’t. But I can say that my involvement in his and his brother’s school contributes to their positive attitudes about school. A positive attitude makes homework more tolerable and promotes a relaxed learning environment.

What I’ve also discovered is that I provide this support and uplift not just for my sons but the other children as well. Some of my children’s classmates lack a significant father figure. I fill that role even if it is just for a short time. The involvement of my wife and I inside and outside the classroom helps ensure students receive the attention and guidance they need and deserve.

Parent involvement helps the teachers, too. We all know they have a demanding job. Volunteers free teachers to do more. And teachers become motivated when they know parents care. That benefits the entire class.

I don’t speak only from experience. The importance of parent involvement is backed by research. A 2010 University of Chicago study identifies parent involvement as one of the five “key ingredients” for school improvement in low-income, urban schools. Other research clearly shows that when families are involved in their children’s learning, both at home and at school, their children do better academically.

Perhaps the biggest impact family involvement can have is that it often expands. I chaperoned one field trip and the next thing I knew I was coaching a girls basketball team. I made these commitments without hesitating. Sure, I’m as busy as any other working parent. But I find the time in my family’s schedule. It’s almost miraculous how the timing always seems to work out.

Unfortunately, men are underrepresented when it comes to getting involved in their children’s schools. That is changing. But it needs to change more. National PTA’s Million Hours of Power campaign aims to build on this momentum. We want at least 350,000 men to volunteer at least three hours service to children—in school, at community events, wherever men feel comfortable volunteering to help children. To help us reach that goal, we are pursuing a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh campaign. The top two vote-getters this month earn the grants.

We’ve moved up about 60 spots in the rankings for the Pepsi Rrefresh $250,000 grants and have already logged thousands of hours toward the Million Hours of Power. We need your help to reach these two goals.

We tend to see only our children. We miss the world of their peers and how the connections between our kids, their friends, their teachers, and the school weave together to form the complex tapestry that is your child’s educational experience.
So if you care about your kids…
If you care about their friends and classmates…
If you care about their teachers…
If you care about the state of education in America…
Then vote in the Pepsi Refresh campaign so PTA can put tools in place to help men get more involved. One man contributing three volunteer hours this year will produce positive results that resonate throughout the classroom, the school, the community.