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Announcing the Recipients of the 2024 Outstanding Advocacy Awards

National PTA is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2024 Outstanding Advocacy Awards!

The annual awards honor state, local and individual PTA advocates for taking action to improve the education, health, safety and well-being of every child.

Advocacy Award

Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award

Washington State PTA

For multiple legislative sessions, Washington State PTA has focused their advocacy efforts on supporting legislation and policies that will help prevent and reduce gun violence and suicide, including: (1) addressing the disproportionate impact on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth; (2) funding community-based prevention and intervention programs; (3) promoting safe storage of medication and firearms; and (4) prohibiting the sale or transfer of military-style assault weapons. As part of their efforts, Washington State PTA Advocacy and Resolutions Committee members have been meeting and discussing bills with legislators and offering improvements and feedback; preparing and delivering testimony; and using methods and communication vehicles including events, action alerts, their website, newsletters, blog posts and social media to impact change. Thanks to their efforts, legislation was passed and signed into law during the 2023 legislative session to prohibit assault weapons (with a few exceptions), promote safe storage of firearms and medication, provide funding for community prevention programs and more. So much progress was made during the 2023 legislative session that Washington State PTA has added new goals for the 2024 legislative session, including expanding existing law to prohibit firearms where families and youth congregate in public places and restoring local government authority to enhance state firearm regulations to protect children and youth.

About the Award 

The Outstanding State PTA Advocacy of the Year Award is awarded annually to one State PTA that through their dedication, leadership & efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy aligned with National PTA’s public policy agenda. 

Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award

Thirty-Third District PTA (California)

In 2023, Thirty-Third District PTA worked on five resolutions—the first resolutions that the PTA had supported in over 10 years. The resolutions included Equitable Literacy for All, Cannabis and Youth Health and Safety, Inclusive Education for Children with Cognitive Disabilities, Restorative Justice, and Synthetic and Non-Tobacco Derived Nicotine Products. The makers of the resolutions for Thirty-Third District PTA conducted a “Resolution Maker Roadshow” to increase understanding among local, regional and state PTA membership regarding the resolution process and the importance of resolutions for PTA advocacy, as well as bring awareness to important issues facing their children and communities. The process allowed Thirty-Third District PTA to not only engage their membership and reinforce the primary role of PTA as an advocacy organization, but it also instilled a sense of pride among their membership for impacting advocacy. Through their work on the resolutions, Thirty-Third District PTA has become known for their advocacy.

About the Award 

The Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy of the Year Award is awarded annually to one local, district, council or regional PTA that through their dedication, leadership & efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy aligned with National PTA’s public policy agenda. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advocacy Award

Big Creek PTA (Middleburg Heights, Ohio)

After noticing that some children’s needs weren't being met at their events, Big Creek PTA, under the leadership of their president Matrice Perry, set a goal to create more accessible and inclusive events for children and families in their school and community. They added a vice president of advocacy position on their Board and worked to engage parents of special needs children within their PTA and school community, provide equity and access to all students and make sure that all their PTA-sponsored events—both during the school day and after school hours—included a sensory friendly time with the appropriate accommodations. Big Creek PTA has taken their ideas to their council PTA for the practice of hosting more accessible and inclusive events to become a districtwide priority.

About the Award 

The Outstanding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion PTA Advocate of the Year Award is awarded annually to one local, district, council or regional PTA that through their dedication, leadership and efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy aligned with National PTA’s DEI Priorities.

Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award

Rachel Burke (Hoosier PTA, Indiana)

Rachel Burke continuously strives to improve the lives of children and youth; fund, improve and protect the public school system; improve public health; and advocate for all children. She is a consistent and recognized voice for children and youth at the Indiana General Assembly, and she has worked to strengthen the position of Indiana PTA as the “voice of the parent” in the legislature and among the media in Indiana. Throughout the 2023 legislative session, Burke testified numerous times before the education, health, elections and fiscal committees. Specifically, she has worked to eliminate textbook rental fees; protect the rights of transgender children in the classroom and in healthcare settings; increase funding to Indiana's public schools; stop the banning of books in public school libraries; strengthen anti-bullying legislation; strengthen "family-friendly" school designations; fight anti-critical race theory legislation; establish and fund Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program in Indiana; and stop SNAP eligibility from being significantly limited, among many other efforts. Burke’s advocacy and her determination has led to Indiana PTA to being consistently part of the narrative on education and youth in Indiana.

About the Award 

The Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award is awarded annually to one individual who most exemplifies the qualities that made one of PTA’s greatest child advocate leaders, former National PTA President Shirley Igo, a true advocate for all children. Shirley was a model of public service and volunteerism throughout her life. She was an impassioned and compassionate leader, dedicated to moving PTA forward and committed to ensuring that others would follow. 

Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award

Maurits Acosta (Hialeah-Miami Lakes PTSA, Florida)

Maurits Acosta strongly believes that one must be the change they want to see in the world, and he understands that involving students in government is key to making sure our country grows and flourishes. He is focused on increasing civic literacy and civic engagement among high school students across the country and increasing student representation in local government and PTA leadership in Florida. Acosta launched the Miami-Dade County Student Engagement Committee where he meets with students across Miami on a regular basis to empower student leaders in PTA. He has also motivated local PTAs to add student representatives to their local units and has been advocating for the creation of student engagement committees for county councils and state PTAs. Additionally, Acosta started Virtutem Populo, Inc., a student-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement and community involvement among youth in Miami-Dade County. Further, he successfully lobbied his mayor to add a student representative to the Town of Miami Lakes Education Advisory Board, which he now serves on as its inaugural office holder. Acosta’s efforts have positively affected change, and he exemplifies the qualities of creativity, leadership and dedication to the cause he champions.

About the Award 

The Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award is awarded annually to a young person (defined as someone under 18, or still in high school at the time of nomination) who exemplifies the qualities of creativity, leadership, and dedication, and has positively affected policy or change in his or her school or community in a way that aligns with PTA’s mission and goals. The youth individual(s) must be a member of a PTA or PTSA.

PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award

National PTA is pleased to honor Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representative Jahana Hayes (D-CT-05) with its 2024 Congressional Voice for Children Award. The award recognizes outstanding leadership and commitment to advancing issues impacting children and youth.

The PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award is given to two Members of Congress each year (bicameral, bipartisan) in recognition of outstanding leadership related to child and education advocacy. Congressional award winners are nominated and selected by the National PTA Legislation Committee and National PTA President.