Give Smart, Leave a Legacy and Make a Lasting Impact

Give Smart, Leave a Legacy and Make a Lasting Impact 

The last few years have been anything but normal. The pandemic has hit the economy hard and the ripple effects have impacted everything from how we buy cars to who is making our coffee. You aren’t alone if you are keeping a closer eye on your finances.  

In the same way, PTAs across the country are also struggling with strained budgets, while at the same time, desperately trying to provide essential tools and services (like food, Wi-Fi access and mental health services) to their communities.  

If you are reading this, you are probably already supporting PTA with your time, talent and donations.  

Have you considered a gift to National PTA in your will or estate plans to cement your legacy of support for kids and families?  

Leaving a gift in your will allows you to make a significant gift to the mission and work of National PTA, while retaining control of your assets during your lifetime. That’s the advantage of a bequest—you can provide for your family today and still invest in PTA’s work to protect and support every child for tomorrow. 

Did you know you can make a bequest in your will with as little as the addition of one sentence? You can designate the National PTA as the beneficiary of a specific amount or asset, or you can allocate a percentage of your total estate. 

When you include the National PTA in your will, you become a valued member of National PTA’s legacy recognition program, The Oak Tree Circle. We recognize the significance of every bequest and appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude by saying thank you today. 


If you would like to learn more, or if you have already included National PTA in your will, please email Caroline Condon at bequests@PTA.org  

National PTA Continues Celebration of “I Matter Because…” Reflections Artists

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students across the country and in U.S. schools abroad participate in the National PTA Reflections program. By creating opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, Reflections boosts student confidence and success, both in the arts and in life.   

In response to an annual student-selected theme, students can submit artwork in the categories of Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. The program also offers the Special Artist Division, which recognizes students with disabilities who participate.  

As a tiered arts recognition program, student submissions can earn awards and prizes at the local, county, district, region levels. Winners from these levels then move on to the state PTA level. Finally, winning artworks from the state level proceed to the national level, where students can receive the Award of Merit, Award of Excellence, or the highest honor—the Outstanding Interpretation Award—for their artistic achievements.  

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, National PTA will host a Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase to continue to celebrate the over 200 national-level awardees from the 2020-2021 I Matter Because… program. As students and their creative talents are essential to the Reflections program, the event will feature more artwork and more students than ever before, with 22 student highlights! We are so excited to recognize all of our winners again and share the creative accomplishments of our featured artists with you.  

Top left – Anna Xie, Award of Merit in Visual Arts, Georgia
Top middle – Alea Garner, Award of Merit in Dance Choreography as a Special Artist, Utah
Top right – MaeLee Scoville, Award of Merit in Literature, Utah
Bottom left – Minjae Eum, Award of Excellence in Music Composition, Alabama
Bottom middle – Josh Devaney, Award of Excellence in Film Production, New Jersey
Bottom right – Trisha Shrestha, Award of Excellence in Dance Choreography, Washington

For a sense of the fun to come, we would like to introduce you to a selection of the featured students.  

Campbell Brown is a dancer from Russom Elementary PTA in Georgia. She won the Award of Merit for her Dance Choreography piece, “Shine Bright.” Dancing brings Campbell joy, and she likes to spread that positivity with others. In her own words, she explains, “I know that I matter because when I bring joy and happiness to others through my performance it makes the world a better place.”  

Tanishka Gupta won the Award of Merit for her poem, “I Matter to Me.” From Round Rock Senior High PTA in Texas, Tanishka shared that writing helps her express her ideas about sensitive subjects and “paint a picture with words.” The inspiration for her award-winning poem draws from the key points of individuality, self-worth, and uniqueness. Tanishka notes, “my true worth always has and always will lie inside me.”  

This year’s Reflections Student Arts Showcase will also highlight Boston Flake from Hobble Creek Elementary PTA in Utah, who won the Award of Merit for his music composition piece, “Bit Life.” (He also won an Award of Excellence during the I Matter Because… program for his literature piece, “I Can Do Anything!”) Boston, a blind DJ and music composer, has produced music for many years and performs in front of big crowds. He shared, “That is one way to show that I matter, by lifting others with my talents.” 

Want to hear from more talented student artists? Join the Reflections community and celebrate students’ creativity during the 2022 Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase at 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday, Jan. 25! The event will air on National PTA’s YouTube channelRSVP in advance to receive free Reflections-inspired activities, including an interactive game to play along with us during the event.  

If you can’t wait until Jan. 25 to view artwork from inspiring student artists, visit this virtual collection, which features the 200+ national Reflections winners from the 2020-2021 I Matter Because… Reflections program. Take a moment to view these students’ remarkable creative achievements and feel free to leave a comment or two!  

We also invite you to learn more about the top seven I Matter Because… Outstanding Interpretation awardees by reading a recent blog post and watching the award video. Congratulations once again to the recipients of the Outstanding Interpretation award: Claire Moon, Johan Novak, Joshua Johnson, Maeryn Elizabeth Jacob, Mark Wagner, Sydney Ware and Zoe Caraballo. 

For more information about the Reflections program, please visit PTA.org/Reflections.  


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA Arts in Education Fellow. 

Rock Your Kickoff: How the Right Start Gets the Best Fundraising Results

Authored by Mariah Muller 

A new calendar year means new needs for your PTA and school to meet to give every child a high-quality education. But what’s the key to getting students, volunteers and teachers excited and engaged for your next fundraising campaign? A motivational fundraiser kickoff event! Here are some tips on how to plan and execute the best one possible. 

What is a Fundraiser Kickoff, and Why Do You Need One? 

Every good fundraiser starts with a kickoff event. Your fundraiser kickoff is how you communicate the purpose and details of the fundraiser in an approachable, organized way. More importantly, your event is an easy and fun way to generate excitement from participants, including students, volunteers, teachers, parents, community members, and anyone else whose support you need to get the most out of your fundraising campaign. 

So, the first tip to making your fundraiser kickoff the best it can be is holding your kickoff event right at the start of your fundraising campaign. When planning your fundraiser, put just as much thought and preparation into the kickoff as the rest of the campaign. 

The Basic Components of a Fundraiser Kickoff 

Since there are so many different types of school fundraisers—from selling spirit wear to hosting a fun run or dance event—there are just as many different ways to approach your fundraiser kickoff. It all depends on the type of campaign you are running! However, your kickoff event should include at least the basic elements listed below. 

  • Purpose: One of the best ways to get people excited about participating in your school fundraiser is to tell them exactly why you’re raising money. Don’t be afraid to share specifics! Donors love to know how their money will help the school, and volunteers and participants love to know that their hard work is going to a good cause. Use your kickoff event to clearly communicate the purpose of your fundraiser. 
  • Details: After explaining the campaign’s purpose, it’s time to share details about how the fundraiser will work, including important deadlines, event dates/times and locations, and any other information volunteers and participants need to know. 
  • Materials and Literature: As you plan your kickoff event, ask yourself—are there are there any flyers, newsletters or other materials that students and volunteers will need in order to participate in the fundraiser? Consider how will you share those materials—will there be a letter or email sent out to parents with more information? It’s critical to have a plan for disseminating important literature or communicating what will be sent out after the event. 
  • Prizes or incentives: Some fundraisers—such as sales, fun runs and auctions—incorporate prizes or incentives to promote participation. Your fundraiser kickoff event is the perfect time to show off these incentives to get people even more excited.  

Conveying Your Message: Innovative Ways to Host a Fundraiser Kickoff 

  • Host a In Person Event 
    One of the most popular fundraiser kickoff events is a school assembly. Kickoff events work best when there is a large audience all gathered together, so the attendees can feed off each other’s excited energy. With an assembly, you can get the whole school community involved, featuring speeches from school administration and performances by student groups such as the school band or cheer team. All of this helps people feel like part of a big fundraising community. 
  • Host a Virtual Event 
    Of course, assemblies may not be possible or safe these days. If that’s the case at your school, don’t worry—you can still get people just as excited through a virtual event. To mimic the feel of an assembly as closely as possible, line up exciting speakers and entertainment just as you would for an in-person event.

    Use accessible technology and make sure all participants have access to the links and passwords they’ll need to log into the event ahead of time. Don’t forget to have a practice run to make sure all of the technology works as intended. There are a lot of details to consider when hosting a virtual event, but with enough planning, it can be exciting and fun for everyone. 

Other Key Considerations for Your Fundraiser Kickoff 

  • Create a Kickoff Video 
    Whether you’re hosting an in-person event or a virtual event, you should create a kickoff video to play for attendees. Include the basic components listed earlier in this blog in your video, such as the purpose and type of fundraiser, date and location of the event, and how volunteers or donors can participate. 
     
    This is your chance to show off your school’s personality and create an entertaining but informative experience for your audience. You can then post the kickoff video on your fundraising website, school website, social media platforms and more. It’s an investment that goes a long way!
  • Make the Most of Social Media 
    Social media is a crucial promotional tool for any fundraiser. To make the most of your kickoff event, take photos and videos of the event and post them on social media with a custom hashtag, and include links to your fundraising or donation page. Ask kickoff attendees to also post about the fundraiser on their own social media accounts. Soon enough, word-of-mouth about your fundraiser will spread like wildfire. 
  • Have a theme 
    Want to add some extra personality to your fundraiser kickoff? Consider having a theme for your fundraiser and introducing it during the kickoff event. Boosterthon’s Character Program is one way to dress up your fundraiser with a fun, memorable theme that promotes good values for the people who benefit most from fundraising … your students! 

Learn more about how Boosterthon can help make your fundraiser dreams a reality, from kickoff to collection, at Boosterthon.com. 

How Your PTA Can Support Social and Emotional Learning 

We know social and emotional learning (SEL) happens at home and at school, but how do we bridge the two learning environments? That’s where your PTA comes in! 

National PTA has introduced our Healthy Minds program to help families and schools work together to support kids’ mental health and well-being. SEL is a key component of our approach to healthy minds! Throughout the pandemic, PTAs across the nation doubled down on their commitment to SEL in big and small ways. 

For example, to combat feelings of isolation and stress in their communities, many PTAs distributed mental wellness kits. These bags of resources provided a range of materials including everything from stress balls and fidgets for children to use to aromatherapy candles.  

Several PTAs also collaborated with school counselors to support their communities. In Georgia, Bartlett Middle School PTSA implemented a new “Coffee with the Counselors” event series, during which counselors would choose a hot topic and facilitate a discussion for families and students. Families were able to get professional advice on relevant issues and access a safe space to practice having these important discussions with their children. 

Meanwhile, in Utah, Bonneville Elementary PTA used a National PTA COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant to collaborate with school leadership to create a wellness center for students. They transformed an unused classroom into an inviting, therapeutic space distinct from the academic setting. A partition separates the Wellness Center into two main areas:  

  • In the Wellness Room, students can take a break during the school day when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. It is a place to process and connect.  
  • In the Resource Room, parents can find materials to help them manage mental health at home and in the community.  

You can learn more about Bonneville’s innovative approach in our Mental Health/Social-Emotional Support COVID-19 Relief Case Study

If you’re feeling inspired by these SEL success stories, here are some tips for getting started in your own community! 

Educate families about social and emotional learning, and why it matters! For families to reinforce social and emotional learning at home, they need to first understand what SEL is and how their children can benefit from it. There are so many ways PTAs can promote learning in their community, from sharing relevant informational and family activity handouts and podcast episodes, to hosting a book club or an event night. 

Help families and teachers develop a common vocabulary when talking about SEL. Discover what language your school uses when talking about social and emotional learning and life skills. Perhaps they use the CASEL wheel, the Second Step Program, or their own homegrown approach with school-selected core values. Either way, it’s important that all community members are on the same page! You can learn more about key SEL skill areas at PTA.org/SocialEmotional.  

Host activities and events that will help students (and their families) build social and emotional skills. You can incorporate SEL activities into your already existing events like your Fall Festival or even as a welcome before a movie night or pizza party. Feelings Charades is a great example for younger kids that can be adapted to fill just a little bit of time, or a longer window!  

Looking for a fun way to get tweens and teens to grapple with bigger SEL topics like identity, purpose, and decision-making? Hosting an event night where middle and high schoolers write Letters to their Future Selves is a fun way to prompt meaningful reflection. 

For even more ideas and resources, visit PTA.org/SocialEmotional  

Climate Change Solutions: You’re More Powerful Than You May Think 

Life as a parent can be overwhelming. This is particularly true when addressing complicated issues like climate change, which can make us feel helpless and overwhelmed. It’s easy to want to disengage, even though we know it impacts future generations. 

But we need to remember that when we use our skills for good and work together as a community, we can be powerful!

To address climate change, we can do so much that is small, yet impactful and within our sphere of influence. Together these drops in the bucket can not only improve our optimism and wellbeing and might make all the difference on a larger scale. 

I like to think of the Earth as a loved one who is ailing. When our child isn’t feeling well, we take a holistic approach and consider all of their needs—what they need to eat, how much water they’ve had to drink, and how they’re feeling mentally and emotionally.  

For me, I was inspired to use a holistic approach for my late husband while he was in the latter stages of cancer. Of course, he needed medical and nutritional (physical) care, but I sensed right away that physical care alone would not harness all the resources he needed for healing. I felt that making sure he felt safe, loved, and cared for would give him the best chance for recovery.  

I believe we’re in this scenario with Earth now. She’s waiting on us to care for all of her and appreciate all the wonderful things she provides, while taking better care of her.  

Plus, environmental psychology shows us that fostering an intimate connection with nature also benefits our mental, emotional, and physical health. In other words, the stress and anxiety that I may feel about Earth, or any other issue, are soothed and improved by deepening my relationship with Earth and the natural world. We’re in this together! 

I feel there is no one right way to approach Earth care; she needs attention in the vast number of ways we’re inclined to provide it. Our hearts know the way, just as we intuitively sense what our children or other loved ones need during times of challenge or crisis. 

My own list will differ from yours, but includes: 

  • Being present and giving nature my full attention, even for a few minutes each day. 
  • Noticing the condition and beauty of her flora, fauna, and minerals when outdoors. 
  • Providing care and help when I notice an opportunity, such as picking up trash, pruning a plant or writing to a lawmaker. 
  • Expressing gratitude and appreciation for her care, beauty, and inspiration, even if only in my thoughts. 
  • Listening deeply to her whispers, large gestures, and everything in between. 
  • Touching her plants, trees, ground, and water with my hands or bare feet. 
  • Praying for her healing and wellness. 

Though we may not always think about how to foster a loving relationship with Earth, our children and many indigenous people have not. They are our inspiration and teachers in so many ways, most especially regarding how to listen to, celebrate, and love Earth. Inviting others and using creative and physical expression to show our affection and admiration for Earth are rejuvenating practices for us, and maybe even for Earth.


Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, MAPP, PhD is the Founder and Convener for Mission and Vision at the Foundation for Family and Community Healing., which offers modules on improving our relationship with ourselves, each other, and Earth. 

Family Literacy for All

National PTA’s Family Reading Experience recently turned five years old, so we decided it was time for a refresh. Over the past year, National PTA has worked with literary content experts to help us re-design programming to be more accessible to the everyday parent and PTA leader by engaging the whole family in reading activities. With our funding from Office Depot, National PTA was able to pilot these new resources last spring with select PTAs across the country.

Sandra West, President of Miami Dade Council PTA in Florida, led the pilot work for her PTA and shared her thoughts about the experience with us.

How did Miami Dade Council PTA go about planning literacy programming?

Miami was, and is, still deep in the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding in-person events wasn’t an option. We started putting our collective heads together to seek authors willing to read their books on Zoom. The council would purchase the books and then mail them to participants. The United States Postal Service offers special media rate service that is affordable. Each book typically costs less than $3 to ship.

We were quite delighted to find that among our board members we had two authors and they knew many more authors. We began contacting them to schedule readings and arrange the purchase of the books.

Danielle Joseph read her book I Want To Ride The Tap Tap, which you can watch on YouTube. After the success of our first reading, the council was contacted by Coral Gables Family Literacy Festival organizers to participate in their Memorial Day Weekend Festival. The goal of the Festival was for every child to leave with a book, and we fulfilled their goal by giving away over 200 books. The only requirement to receive a book was for them to join our newsletter mailing list. Using that list, we promoted our second Zoom author, Andrew Toffoli, who read Susan Bear Anthony, which you can also watch on YouTube.

Another project of the Family Literacy Committee was a partnership with the Miami Dade County Public Library System to host authors and give away the corresponding books. Every three weeks or so, a different branch of the library hosts an author read and the council provides the books to be distributed.

Did you face any challenges in your literacy work?

One of our challenges has been negotiating discounted books. To find discounts we contact the author, the publishers, distributors and bookstores. A resource that has been amazing has been Scholastic. At first, we purchased discounted books through the Scholastic Book Club but then we were introduced to the Scholastic F.A.C.E. program, which allows us to purchase deeply discounted books with the promise that we will give them away and not sell them.

The initial pilot funds provided by Office Depot have been matched three-fold by the council, so this can be a continuous program offered to the 350,000 students in the fourth-largest school system in the USA. Thank you so much to National PTA and Office Depot for getting us started!

If Sandra’s family reading experience program excites you, make sure to check out our revamped Family Reading Experience page with our new PTA Leader Resources on how to plan your own literacy programming in your PTA! Happy reading!


 Sandra West is the president of Miami Dade County Council PTA.

Second Annual Volly Awards Put Unsung Parent Volunteers Center Stage

You know the expression, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The last two years have been tough on schools, and it’s the resilience of one group—parent volunteers—that has helped keep school morale going strong. They are unsung heroes, coordinating virtual pep rallies, spirit nights and graduation celebrations, with little or no recognition. Until now!

Booster serves alongside parent volunteers at more than 4,000 schools nationally, so we’ve seen their immense efforts firsthand. That’s why we decided to establish The Volly Awards last year, as a way of saying thank you to these amazing men and women across the country.

Kyle Young, Booster’s First Annual Volly Award Winner, is a great example of an unsung hero going the extra mile to make a difference. He’s a father of two, husband and small business owner, yet he still finds time to give back by donating his talents to Hutchens Elementary School in Mobile, Ala. He has served as a PTA president, school bus driver, mentor and so much more. His efforts have made a lasting impact on the entire school community. 

Do you know an unsung school volunteer? Nominate them for the Volly Awards and bring them from behind the scenes into the spotlight. Here’s How:

  • Visit VollyAwards.com to submit as many written nominations as you’d like. Parent volunteers can be nominated by peers, school administrators, staff or themselves.
  • Tell us why the parent volunteer deserves to be celebrated and how they make a difference in their school and community. Volly Award nominations are open to all schools.
  • Monthly winners will receive a $150 Amazon Gift Card and 50 custom shirts from Booster Spirit Wear for your school. But that’s not all—the 2021 National Volly Award Winner will receive a $1,000 Visa gift card and 500 custom shirts from Booster Spirit Wear for your school!

Join us for the Second Annual Volly Awards by nominating your school’s dedicated parent volunteers today! You can also check out who won each month and be inspired by their volunteer accomplishments at VollyAwards.com.

This Tool Teaches Children and Families to #BeCyberSmart

This October we celebrate both National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month. Through the PTA Connected initiative and with The Smart Talk tool, families have the resources to make Cyber Safety easy and to end cyberbullying for good.

A new school year often can mean new worries. The good news: Cyber Safety and cyberbullying do not need to be one of them! As October is both National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month, now is a great time to learn more about these important topics. As a parent of two boys and an employee of NortonLifeLock, I am excited to share the work we’ve done with National PTA to help families stay educated and safe.

Now in its 18th year, National Cyber Security Awareness Month was originally created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance. This year, the theme is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” Much like the lessons we’ve learned through the global pandemic, #BeCyberSmart focuses on the role we can all play in protecting cyberspace. Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a student, a CEO or a community member—we all have ways we can contribute to a safer online experience.

National Bullying Prevention Month was started 15 years ago by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center to provide parents and students with the resources and support to better respond to bullying. According to the National Prevention Council, due to vastly increased screen time and social anxiety due to isolation, 43% of teens report being the victim of cyberbullying in the last year. According to the same report, nearly 80% of teens said they either, “did not have parental rules about internet use or found ways around the rules.”

To help families navigate these issues and take charge of their digital lives, NortonLifeLock and National PTA created The Smart Talk—a free, interactive resource that encourages open communication. The Smart Talk was developed so that families could work together to create an agreement about rules and expectations around online behavior and device usage. It covers topics like safety and privacy, screen time, social media, apps and downloads, texting and calling. With reminders throughout that children are capable of making good decisions, the tool asks children to “Let us [caregivers] know if they experience bullying or something that doesn’t feel right.”

The Smart Talk tool is also part of PTA Connected, a National PTA initiative that strives to help children act safely, responsibly and thoughtfully online. NortonLifeLock is proud to be a founding sponsor of the program, which connects caregivers and children to online safety and responsibility forums, planning guides, best practices, community events and much more.

If you’re interested in strategies to discuss cyberbullying with your children and to teach your kids to be #BeCyberSmart, have The Smart Talk with your family today!

Online Payment Dos and Don’ts for PTAs

If you visit any PTA message board, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll see a post that goes something like this: “Looking to take PTA payments digital … what platform do you recommend? I hear Venmo is not great for PTAs. Is that true?”

It’s a common conversation, and for good reason. Now, more than ever, PTAs are looking to take payments—including membership renewals and fundraisers—virtual. And peer-to-peer (P2P) payment platforms, like Venmo, often come to mind because parents use it for other things, such as paying the babysitter or a friend.

If you’re looking to move your PTA payments online, keep reading to learn:

  • The top three reasons why P2P payment platforms (like Venmo) are a no-go
  • Features to look for in an online payment platform for your PTA

Top 3 reasons why your PTA should avoid P2P payment platforms

First off, what’s a P2P payment platform? The graphic below gives a quick snapshot of the payment platform landscape. P2P payment platforms, also known as “peer-to-peer” payment platforms, like Venmo, are typically used to get money from one individual to another (from point A to point B). While they’re great for paying a friend or making a Facebook Marketplace purchase, they are NOT great for PTA payments and here’s why:

  1. Venmo does not support non-profits
    And because of that, it’s possible to have funds frozen if the platform is used in an unapproved way. Most consider this not worth the risk!
  2. Tracking and reporting is almost nonexistent
    Most PTA initiatives involve collecting more than just payment. You need to know who paid, how much, for what—you may even need to collect form information. Collecting and tracking that level of detail on Venmo is just not possible.
  3. Lack of tax receipts
    Email tax receipts are a big deal for PTAs and nonprofits. In fact, it’s a requirement that, if not met, could result in your 501c3 license being revoked. Plus, parents are always asking for a receipt!
  4. Venmo has a weekly payment limit
    While it can vary by user, Venmo (and similar platforms) limit how much money you can collect within a certain time period. If you’ve taken the time to create an amazing event or spirit wear store, limitations are going to be a big challenge!
  5. No way to transfer an account
    Most PTAs have volunteers who transition as their children graduate or as their schedule allows. Not being able to transfer a Venmo account means your PTA will be reinventing the wheel—with no history to speak of—year after year.

For these reasons, and so many more, you want to select a payment platform that is made to collect from groups and communities (one that falls squarely in the center column of the graphic below) and can meet your PTA’s evolving needs.

Features to look for in your PTA payment platform

At the highest level, your PTA should look for a payment platform that is:

  • Flexible (PTAs collect for so many different things!)
  • Easy (Volunteers have varying levels of tech fluency!)
  • Free (Who wants to commit to a hefty monthly or annual fee?)

After working with thousands of PTAs for nearly a decade, at Cheddar Up we feel it’s clear that PTAs need the following features in a payment platform:

  • Friction-free payments
    Look for a platform that lets your community click and pay. Parents should NOT need to create an account or download a mobile app to pay. 
  • Payments + Information
    PTAs typically need to collect more than just payments (such as T-shirt size, contact information, etc.). Find a platform that lets you collect unlimited payments and forms.
  • Tracking
    Look for robust, easy-to-use and dynamic payment and information tracking—that you can view online or download. This saves volunteers hours, eliminates data entry and spreadsheet jockeying.
  • Handoff
    Make CERTAIN that you can easily transfer your account to incoming PTA board members. If you are going to invest time to innovate your PTA payment system, you want to make sure it sticks for years to come.
  • Point of sale
    It’s normal for PTAs to need to collect online and in-person payments. Find a platform that does both—well. You want to be able to collect online and point-of-sale payments (with mobile apps and Bluetooth card readers) so all tracking and funds stay in one spot!
  • Low, flexible fees
    You want low fees, an amazing feature set, payment method optionality and the ability to pass fees to the payer. Bottom line, with any online system, fees are always factor. Pick a platform with fee optionality and you’ll be in good hands.

Nichole Montoya is the co-founder and CEO of Cheddar Up, a platform dedicated to helping thousands of PTAs and similar groups easily collect payments and information online. To see examples of online PTA collection pages, visit our archive.

How Does a PTA Become a National School of Excellence?

The year-long commitment to becoming a National PTA School of Excellence can seem daunting, but with step-by-step guidance and as many unique project plans as there are school communities, the journey is one well-worth taking. PTAs all over the nation have led their schools to the top, showcasing their incredible dedication to improvement, consistent engagement with school community members and, yes, the power of a little elbow grease!

Here’s how a few of the 2020-2022 National PTA School of Excellence designees earned this prestigious two-year, national recognition.

BELLA VISTA PTA, CALIFORNIA

Bella Vista PTA in California showed they were School of Excellence material when they took the challenges of COVID-19 head on, promoting healthy lifestyles in their school community. Although the pandemic presented new challenges to Bella Vista PTA and their school community; they continued to ensure the health and safety of their students and promote healthy habits at home and at school.

The school adapted a virtual/hybrid model of learning, and the PTA used all of their communication channels to share tips and reminders on how to thrive, both physically and mentally, in the midst of so much upheaval. Bella Vista PTA also added a “Health and Wellness” section to their newsletter and leveraged their social media platforms and website to continue to communicate health and wellness tips.

Through the School of Excellence program, Bella Vista PTA took initiative by identifying the need to promote healthy lifestyles during a time that could have been far too sedentary for students. While remote learning, students were constantly sitting at their computers and not getting up and changing classrooms or going to recess like they did before the pandemic. The PTA raised awareness around health and wellness and brought their community together during a trying time, which is exactly what a School of Excellence does to lead the way to a successful future.

SAMUEL BISSELL ELEMENTARY PTA, OHIO

Promoting healthy lifestyles for students and their families is just one way to start your school’s School of Excellence path. Samuel Bissell Elementary PTA in Ohio decided to go in another direction. They confronted the problems of COVID-19 by stepping up their virtual programming to encourage learning, support education, and foster a strong sense of community.

The school district gave parents the option to be on campus or be virtual for the entire school year. This allowed parents to have the choice to do what was best for their family, but it also made extra work for the school and PTA to make sure this year was successful.

In response, Samuel Bissell PTA provided a Family Fun Week that was inclusive to all students, both In Person and At Home. They partnered with Young Chef of Solon and presented a cooking night where they gave away measuring cups. Next, they hosted a Paint Night, where they provided all of the materials and hired an artist from California to teach participants how to paint hot air balloons. Finally, Samuel Bissell Elementary PTA hosted a Trivia Night and a Bingo Night with prizes and a dance party with a DJ, where participants received glow sticks.

In addition to hosting fun events, the PTA also supported curriculum. With students wearing masks at school and others learning remotely, the school and PTA purchased student “Fundations At-Home Packets,” low-tech educational packets that are customized for each curriculum level for at home, blended learning.

Samuel Bissell’s PTA also provided the entire school with Chromebooks, which gave students and staff the ability to learn safely and have the flexibility to be in-person or virtual, because everyone could connect on Google Classroom and Google Meet. The school also went paperless to avoid contact, and in doing so, everyone received clear bookbags to carry Chromebooks and school supplies to avoid assigning lockers. The Chromebooks also allowed for teachers to easily use the Smart Boards and to have the proper technology to connect with each student.

With virtual learning and the students spending more time on the computer than ever before, Samuel Bissell’s PTA held an Internet Safety Night, which featured an informational technology expert. Parents learned what apps and games their children are likely to be using, and what they should watch for when it comes to their child and the internet. The evening event allowed parents to feel more connected to their kids and continued to support virtual learners by helping them stay safe.

As you can see, Samuel Bissell Elementary PTA worked with their community and school to provide a creative path for student success!

WILSON MIDDLE SCHOOL PTA, TEXAS

Wilson Middle School PTA in Texas became a School of Excellence through the third National Standard of Family-School Partnerships—Supporting Student Success. In partnership with the Wilson Administration, Wilson Math Department and 24-person PTA Board, this PTA created a Dreambox Math Initiative. The four-week program was designed to encourage math practice outside of school time to meet students where they are and increase skill acquisition based on each student’s performance.

Funded through a National PTA Grant, Wilson PTA engaged community business partners, including Chick-fil-A and Jason’s Deli, to provide discounted giveaways. Outreach to families was provided through emails, voicemails, flyers, carpool lane signs, the PTA website, Facebook posts and the PTA newsletter.

Each week students were offered giveaways of increasing interest or value, such as a Ram Mystery Bag of fun tchotchkes or a Ram Snack Pack. The final week culminated with a Chick-fil-a lunch for students that met their goals. Students were both motivated to practice math and were awarded with fun activities and giveaways. An average of 272 participating students were impacted each week.

Wilson’s head of the math department, Michelle Boudoin, also found value in setting a new standard of collaboration with Wilson PTA to support student success, sharing, “The initiative was a great motivator that increased student participation. Our teachers and students learned a lot about tracking progress and meeting the specific needs of different learning objectives for students. We look forward to finding future programs to build student growth over time and partnering with PTA to increase student motivation.”

Principal Mark Letterer offered perspective on testing metrics which measured the success of their PTA’s new initiative, saying, “In a year of co-seating and delivery of a new instructional model, Wilson Middle School continued to provide quality academic instruction, supported by our PTA. This was evidenced by our state testing data that saw 100% of our eighth-grade Algebra 1 EOC students meet state standards. In addition, the remainder of our eighth-grade math STAAR scores indicated performance above the district average ranking in the top quartile of district middle schools. This is an exceptional accomplishment where we outperformed all other comparable schools in our district.”

Preliminary data reports show the school’s sixth grade math scores to be consistent with past years and again outperforming a high percentage of comparable Title I school in the number of students who performed at or above grade level expectations. Thanks in part to the Wilson PTA’s efforts, Wilson students achieved near or above district averages in most every tested area.

These PTAs achieved the highly coveted School of Excellence designation by making their school communities better through improving educational outcomes, promoting healthy lifestyles and confronting identified problems head on with dedication, collaboration and open lines of communication.

Each School of Excellence journey looks different because the needs of each school community vary, but it’s easy to see what they all have in common—a caring group of school leaders that use feedback and data to make informed and intentional decisions to strengthen family-school partnerships.

Let National PTA’s School of Excellence program provide a framework to help your PTA identify areas of need, develop and implement action plans based in best practice for transformative family engagement and celebrate accomplishments!

Enrollment is open through Friday, Oct. 15 at PTA.org/Excellence. Email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions.