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National PTA Honors Parents and Youth for Outstanding Advocacy Efforts

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Heidi May Wilson, Media Relations Manager
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Honorees to be recognized during 2015 National PTA Legislative Conference

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Feb. 5, 2015) — National PTA® is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2015 Outstanding Advocacy Awards, which honor parents and youth from across the country for their leadership and commitment to being a powerful voice for all children and a strong advocate for public education. The honorees will be recognized during the 2015 National PTA Legislative Conference on Wednesday, March 11 during the PTA Takes Action Dinner at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

This year’s recipients are:

PTA Outstanding State Advocacy Award – California State PTA
California State PTA’s efforts to advocate for changes in how schools are funded and how parents are involved in local decision-making contributed to the Local Control Funding Formula law passed by the California State Legislature and signed by the governor. The most sweeping change in school funding in decades, the law incorporates many of the systematic proposals sought by California State PTA, including allowing for more local decisions on how funds are spent, requiring parent and community involvement in funding decisions, targeting of funds to students most in need, and calling for greater transparency and accountability for how money is spent. Committed to the successful implementation of the changes, California State PTA testified before the State Board of Education to ensure the new regulations reflect PTA priorities as well as helped school districts across the state engage parents in creating Local Control and Accountability Plans outlining how funds will be spent and accounted for. California State PTA's main focus was on educating families and communities statewide on the new school funding law, their increased responsibility under the law and the need to be stronger advocates for their children and schools.

PTA Outstanding Local Advocacy Award – Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA (Maryland)
Youth’s Benefit Elementary School PTA is being honored for its efforts and success in advocating for a new building for Youth’s Benefit Elementary School. The school’s current facility is unsafe with a variety of infrastructure issues, including lead in the water, a failing septic system and leaking roofs. It also lacks adequate instructional and planning space. Members of the PTA educated themselves on all aspects of the capital project selection process, county budget process and state funding process for capital school projects. To move the project to first priority on the county’s replacement list, PTA members spoke at Board of Education and County Council meetings and budget hearings; met with the superintendent for the school system, members of the Board of Education, County Council members and the County Executive; and corresponded on a regular basis with members of the state delegation. They also wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper and routinely informed the community of opportunities to engage with district and local officials at key times throughout the process. After nearly four years of ongoing advocacy efforts, the project was approved for construction and funding was made available for a new facility.

Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Ambassador Award – Tami Loving (Virginia)
Tami Loving has worked tirelessly to ensure that all facilities in Chesterfield County Public Schools in Virginia are compliant with ADA regulations and fully accessible to children and families with special needs. She began her advocacy efforts by visiting schools throughout the county and documenting areas where the facilities did not meet ADA standards, including lack of handicap parking, ramps, easily accessible paths for travel and access gates for sports facilities. After compiling an extensive list of accessibility concerns, Loving spoke at Chesterfield County School Board and Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meetings as well as met with county and school district officials in an effort to resolve the issues. Additionally, she attended local events to educate and engage the public and used social media as a platform for community organization, advocacy and outreach. In June 2014, Loving received a ruling from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights requiring Chesterfield County Public Schools to make their facilities accessible to all students and families. As the recipient of the Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Ambassador Award, Loving will serve as an ambassador for National PTA, helping to positively affect policy, regulation and legislation.

Youth Advocate of the Year Ambassador Award – Carolina Sosa (Virginia)
Carolina Sosa is a passionate advocate for education, human rights, drug prevention and youth leadership. Sosa founded Scholar Society, a mentoring program for low income and first generation students. Through the program and the promotion of academic excellence, community service and leadership, Sosa’s goal is to get at-risk students excited about school and motivated to achieve their goals. In addition to leading Scholar Society, Sosa is also president of the Unified Prevention Coalition Youth Council, co-president of the Volunteer Fairfax Youth Advisory Board, president of Westfield High School Key Club, serves on the Fairfax County Student Human Rights Commission and works with the Girl Up Foundation. Among her efforts in these roles, Sosa spoke before the Fairfax County School Board in favor of tobacco free signage in school playgrounds. Such signs can now be found in local parks. She also has worked to foster greater understanding and appreciation of differences amid youth as well as advocated for support for programs that prevent discrimination against females. As the recipient of the Youth Advocate of the Year Ambassador Award, Sosa will serve as a youth ambassador for National PTA throughout 2015.

“Because of advocates like California State PTA, Youth’s Benefit Elementary PTA, Tami Loving and Carolina Sosa, our nation has child labor laws, a separate juvenile justice system, universal kindergarten and hot lunches for students,” said Otha Thornton, president of National PTA. “We are pleased to recognize California State PTA, Youth’s Benefit Elementary PTA, Tami Loving and Carolina Sosa with the 2015 Outstanding Advocacy Awards. They exemplify what it means to speak up and take action, and their efforts have truly made a difference for education and the lives and futures of our nation’s children.”

Each year, the National PTA Legislative Conference brings together hundreds of parent leaders from across the country to discuss PTA’s public policy priorities and inspire and empower them to advocate for all children. The 2015 conference will be held March 10-12 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel. During the conference, attendees will hear from speakers and participate in interactive workshops and skill-building trainings on a variety of topics, including data privacy in education, juvenile justice and delinquency prevention, early childhood education, school safety, school nutrition and family engagement. They also will meet with Congressional leaders to discuss key issues impacting the nation’s children.

For more information about the 2015 Outstanding Advocacy Awards and National PTA Legislative Conference, visit PTA.org/legcon.

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of parent involvement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health and welfare of children and youth.