Take Your Family to School Week: Sparking Conversations about the Future

WP_20150217_023“Tonight I decided what I want to do with the rest of my life, and what scares me is that it had nothing to do with what I came here thinking it would be!” This is just a snapshot of the enthusiasm students shared at Sandalwood High School PTSA’s Take Your Family to School Week event in Florida.

The event was modeled as a career night which featured representatives from over 40 different professions. Sandalwood PTSA, one of National PTA’s 2015 Take Your Family to School Week grant recipients, used grant funds to provide a free meal to all attendees and offer a prize to encourage students to interact with the guest speakers. Families bonded over dinner in the cafeteria, while discussing students’ futures.

“Not only did the event supply students with needed information to allow them to choose a career path,” said Amy Barker, the Sandalwood PTSA president, “it provided them with an opportunity to speak to their families about career decisions and open a dialogue- which is difficult to do during the teenage years.”

shs“We easily had 300 people there,” Amy added, “not even the rival football games bring out these numbers.” Although she had been involved in PTA throughout her sons’ academic careers, this was Amy’s first time planning an official Take Your Family to School Week event. Amy took some time out of her day to provide us with some insights on her experience participating in Take Your Family to School Week and what advice she might have for other PTAs/PTSAs who want to participate in the future:

This sounds like it was a huge success for your school! What aspects do you think contributed to the positive reception, especially when it came to getting students excited? The free food did not hurt. I personally went lunch table to lunch table, the day of the event and promoted it and reminded students and handed out fliers. I created a Facebook event on our PTSA Facebook page weekly and added the occupations who signed on and asked students to post requests for occupations. I think having a wide variety of occupations, and asking student feedback of which occupation they would like at the event helped. We also raffled a laptop. The “cost” of the raffle was for the student to speak with one of the occupations at the event, the more occupations they spoke with the more raffle tickets they earned. I found that when talking to students, if I led the conversation with free dinner and chance to win a laptop first, I had their attention. Then I explained the purpose of the event and they started asking more questions.

Would you advise more PTAs/PTSAs to participate in Take Your Family to School Week? Before, I was under the impression Take Your Family to School Week meant just that, bring families to school for school. I had no idea events we were participating in already qualified. I definitely think more schools should participate, parents really appreciated the event, they learned something about PTA, their children, and themselves.

Do you have any advice for PTA/PTSAs who are intrigued by the idea of planning a Take Your Family to School Week event, but may be intimidated by the planning process? The materials in the online toolkit, such as the PTA Leader’s Guide, made the process so easy. It was literally less work then planning a typical event, because checklists and materials were provided for me. It took a lot of the thinking out of it.

Would you do another Take Your Family to School Week event next year? Absolutely, every parent I spoke to asked us to do the event every year.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, it is such a great anecdote about the importance of strong family engagement in school! I am so grateful you provided us with the tools and funding to provide this spectacular event. It rejuvenated my spirit. As a High School we have limited funding and this event really allowed people to see what we could be doing. The traditional events are great, but everyone gets in a rut and they don’t draw a crowd like when you do something new. Thank you again.

For more information on National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week, please visit PTA.org/TYFSTW.