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National PTA Honors Outstanding Efforts in Taking Action for Kids

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Heidi May Wilson, Senior Manager, Media Relations

Honorees to be recognized at 2019 National PTA Legislative Conference

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (Feb. 4, 2019)—National PTA is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2019 Outstanding Advocacy Awards, which honor parents and youth from across the country who have taken action on issues that affect the education, health, safety, well-being and long-term success of America’s children. The honorees will be recognized at the 2019 National PTA Legislative Conference, Wednesday, March 13, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

This year’s recipients are: 

  • Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award—Missouri PTA
    Prior to Missouri PTA’s advocacy efforts, Missouri was one of only five states that housed juveniles—some as young as nine—in adult facilities, even prior to their conviction. Missouri PTA worked with a coalition to plan and implement an initiative to support legislation that would make sure juveniles involved in the justice system are housed separately from adults. PTA members met with their local legislators, garnered the support of law enforcement and juvenile justice departments, and implemented a robust media campaign on the issue. Last year, after five years of concerted effort, Missouri PTA’s advocacy efforts saw success when SB 793 “Raise the Age” was signed into law. The new law requires that children be prosecuted in juvenile courts and ensures that no person under the age of 18 may be detained in an adult jail unless the person has been certified as an adult.
  • Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award—Austin Council of PTAs (Texas)
    Austin Council of PTAs’ award-winning advocacy campaign began in spring 2018, when the district and the city's public transportation authority announced a pilot program to make rides for students free for the summer. The PTA raised awareness about the free summer ride program and encouraged families, students, teachers and school staff to write letters to the transportation authority, as well as testify in person about the impact of free rides. Austin Council of PTAs’ advocacy efforts then turned toward support for a vote to make the free ride program permanent, to ensure every child in Austin has reliable access to schools. Members continued to reach out to students, parents, teachers, service providers and others, encouraging them to share their personal stories and to ensure that advocates were speaking loudly and with one voice. With the measure passing unanimously, Austin Council of PTAs successfully advocated making public transportation free for all K-12 students in their district.
  • Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award—Janelle Sperry (Bunker Hill, W.Va.)  
    Janelle Sperry’s outstanding advocacy efforts span many roles and issue areas. Sperry has been a PTA member for 11 years and has served on the West Virginia PTA Board of Managers for seven years, including as president from 2015-2017 and currently as marketing chairperson. Among her many advocacy efforts, Sperry was instrumental in the formation of the West Virginia Coalition for Public Education, which is focused on preventing voucher legislation from being enacted in West Virginia. In this effort, Sperry met with the West Virginia state superintendent, associate superintendent of schools and the governor’s office as well as sent out letters to over 80 associations. Most recently, Sperry worked to draft a bill in West Virginia to define and establish the crime of cyberbullying. The bill was signed into law in 2018. Sperry has spent her entire life serving her community and continues to make the mission of PTA her focus by taking action to ensure every child receives a high-quality education.
  • Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award—Chloe Mattes (Racine, Wis.)
    As Wisconsin PTA Youth Outreach Chair, Chloe Mattes decided to take action on an issue top of mind for most youth—college and career readiness. Through social media, Mattes reached out to students between the ages of 12-18 and their parents to spread the word about opportunities for students and their families to explore colleges, technical schools and career paths. She also interviewed high school students, teachers and college students about their college and career experiences. Using this footage, Mattes created YouTube videos and wrote articles that were sent to all local PTA leaders and community partners to raise awareness in Wisconsin about what it means to be college and career ready.

“Advocacy is critical to make advances for our nation’s youth and ensure every child has access to a high-quality public education in a learning environment that is healthy, safe and secure,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “We are looking forward to recognizing the best in PTA advocacy and celebrating these awardees’ efforts in taking action for kids at our legislative conference.”

Every year, the National PTA Legislative Conference brings together PTA leaders and advocates from across the country to explore the association’s advocacy priorities and the federal policies that impact kids as well as actively advocate to create a better future for every child.

During the 2019 conference—themed “PTA Takes Action for Kids”—attendees will hear from speakers and participate in workshops to expand their knowledge of federal law and grow their advocacy skills. Attendees will use this knowledge to amplify their voices by meeting with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 13.

“For over 120 years, National PTA advocates have been at the heart of efforts that have forever changed the lives of our children—including the passage of child labor laws, the start of the school lunch program, improvements to the treatment of children in the justice system, and the implementation of universal kindergarten classes,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA Executive Director. “As throughout our history, we are committed to urging the 116th Congress to take action for kids and enact legislation that makes a difference for every child.”

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 family engagement 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. For more information, visit