Heidi May Wilson, Senior Manager, Media Relations
Honorees to be recognized during National PTA 125th Anniversary Convention
ALEXANDRIA, Va., (May 12, 2022)—National PTA is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2022 Outstanding Advocacy Awards and 2022 Jan Harp Domene Diversity and Inclusion Award. The awards honor PTAs and PTA advocates for taking action to improve the education, health, safety and well-being of every child, as well as make sure the perspectives and needs of all communities are heard and represented. The honorees will be recognized during the National PTA 125th Anniversary Convention, June 14-19 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.
This year’s Outstanding Advocacy Award recipients are:
- Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award—Utah PTA
Utah PTA raised their voice by sponsoring forums, developing informational materials and meeting with government leaders on a wide range of topics—including big tobacco and increased funding for special education, teacher recruitment and student mental health support. They also drafted legislation to assist refugee students in making a smooth transition to living in and going to school across the state.
- Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award—Bell Elementary School PTSA (Kirkland, Wash.)
Advocacy efforts at their school included a big push to make their playground ADA compliant, so all students could have access and feel included, as well as securing funding to replace old laptops, to support remote learning during COVID-19. Bell Elementary School PTSA also advocated for changes to lunchroom requirements that have led to significant reductions in food waste, instituting a composting program and relaunching a food donation program at their school.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advocacy Award—Sussman Middle School PTA (Downey, Calif.)
To celebrate all students and foster a more inclusive environment, Sussman Middle School PTA hosted and supported several initiatives within their school and in the wider community, including providing resources to the Where Everyone Belongs (WEB) club, getting donations for school spirit wear for disadvantaged students, hosting a two-week kindness event, developing materials to raise awareness of autism, partnering with a local nonprofit that works with at-risk youth to offer resources, and restocking the local PTA HELPS food bank.
- Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award—Laura Mitchell (Silver Spring, Md.)
Among her many efforts, Laura Mitchell’s work includes improving awareness of mental health issues and leading efforts to improve access to mental health services for students. Mitchell launched Wheaton Wellness Wednesdays to create a positive mental health culture and organized mental health first aid classes for parents to support themselves and their children. She has supported and developed programs on a variety of issues, including equitable COVID-19 vaccine education and access through community clinics. Mitchell has also developed several education initiatives, including substance use and tobacco prevention, suicide prevention, HIV awareness and LGBTQIA+ student support initiatives.
- Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award—Marina Devine Guzmán and Lucia Chico (Coral Gables, Fla.)
Marina Devine Guzmán and Lucia Chico launched The Garden Project, which included a Mental Health Garden, where students can practice mindfulness, as well as a Butterfly Garden, filled with native pollinator plants. The project increased peer involvement in environmental issues; beautified the campus and other areas in their community; increased the number of native plants flourishing in South Florida; and brought together alumni, parents, teachers, counselors and other environmental advocates in support of a common cause.
This year’s Jan Harp Domene Diversity and Inclusion Award recipients are:
- Florida PTA
Among their efforts this year, Florida PTA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee updated the “PTA en Español” page on the association’s website; mentored constituent units through frank and open conversations; and offered virtual programming on implicit bias, LGBTQ+ history, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) support services and Hispanic/Latino outreach. In their programming, the committee dove into why multicultural “nights” and gender, race or ethnicity-specific “months” fall short of promoting true inclusion, and they stressed the importance of intentionality in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices. The committee also produced newsletter articles defining DEI and demonstrating its power explaining cultural and religious differences in holiday celebrations, detailing techniques for attracting a diverse PTA membership and volunteer force and recommending ways to talk to children about DEI.
- Montgomery County Council of PTAs (Germantown, Md.)
In the 2020-2021 school year, Montgomery County Council of PTAs’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee specifically looked at the role of School Resource Officers (SROs) within their public school system to create a more equitable disciplinary system as studies have shown a negative impact on school culture for Black and Brown students as well as students with disabilities when police officers are in schools. The effort included testimony before the Board of Education and County Council, meetings with police/law enforcement and multiple interactions with the County Executive and state lawmakers to adjust the approach to student discipline. For the 2021-2022 school year, the county moved to a “community engagement” model through which police are available to schools but not stationed within the schools. The county also increased focus on mental health services, including increasing system access to 50 additional social workers to support students.
- El Rincon Elementary School PTA (Culver City, Calif.)
In the 2020-2021 school year, El Rincon Elementary School PTA created a Diversity and Equity Committee, which formed subcommittees dedicated to Black History Month, LGBTQ families, the Lunar New Year, Diwali and Holi. Among the efforts of the committee, they created a video web series highlighting various cultural celebrations throughout their community. They also hosted a schoolwide assembly to celebrate and educate students about Holi, hosted a fundraiser during Black History Month at local Black-owned restaurants, created arts and craft kits for teachers to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the classroom and started supply drives for Afghan refugees. Additionally, families have created playdates for special education and LGBTQ communities.
“Taking action every day to improve the education, health, safety and well-being of every child and making sure the perspectives and needs of all communities are heard and represented is more important than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the gun and school safety epidemic, and the fight for racial justice and equity in our country,” said Anna King, president of National PTA. “We applaud the efforts of Utah PTA, Florida PTA, Montgomery County Council of PTAs, Bell Elementary School PTSA, El Rincon Elementary School PTA, Sussman Middle School PTA, Laura Mitchell, Marina Devine Guzmán and Lucia Chico that have resulted in positive change in their communities. We are pleased to recognize them with our 2022 Outstanding Advocacy and Jan Harp Domene Diversity and Inclusion Awards.”
The Jan Harp Domene Diversity and Inclusion Award is named after past National PTA President (2007-2009) Jan Harp Domene, who was dedicated to ensuring that families of all backgrounds felt welcomed in PTA and their school communities. The award recipients are selected by National PTA’s Diversity, Inclusion & Outreach Committee, which also works to ensure diversity and inclusion in PTA. The Outstanding Advocacy Award recipients are selected by the association’s Legislation Committee.
Florida PTA, Montgomery County Council of PTAs and El Rincon Elementary School PTA will each receive a $1,000 award in recognition of their efforts to further their work. Utah PTA will also receive a $1,000 award and Bell Elementary School PTSA will receive a $500 award.
“There is still so much work to do to make sure the needs of every child and family are met,” added Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director. “As Utah PTA, Florida PTA, Montgomery County Council of PTAs, Bell Elementary School PTSA, El Rincon Elementary School PTA, Sussman Middle School PTA, Laura Mitchell, Marina Devine Guzmán and Lucia Chico have done and all PTAs and PTA advocates do every day, our association will continue to take action, ensure all perspectives are heard and considered, and be a thought leader on critical issues impacting our nation’s families.”
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 PTA.org.
PTA is committed to advancing and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the association. If you have witnessed or experienced bias in your PTA, please reach out to Diversity@PTA.org.