2016 Advocacy Award Winners

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Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award

Massachusetts PTA

Massachusetts PTACommitted to speaking up for every child, Massachusetts PTA dedicated its efforts over the past year to advocating for the education, health, safety and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to ensure they have every opportunity to reach their full potential. As part of its efforts, Massachusetts PTA established a LGBTQ chair position on its Board of Directors and formed a committee comprised of LGBTQ students and parents. Massachusetts PTA also partnered with other local and national advocacy groups and secured a seat at the table to help shape policies impacting LGBTQ students and families. The association’s efforts and leadership contributed to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously passing a measure to update the school system’s handling of LGBTQ issues, which had not been updated since 1992. A key component of Massachusetts PTA’s LGBTQ advocacy plan also involved increasing family engagement and strengthening partnerships between PTAs, schools and the LGBTQ community across the state to ensure all families feel welcomed, supported and are empowered to support their children’s success.

Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award

Rochester Community PTA Council (Michigan)

Rochester Community PTA CouncilRochester Community PTA Council is being honored for its efforts to educate families throughout the community on legislative issues impacting children and schools and the importance of getting involved. The Rochester Community School District proposed a $185 million bond issue for inclusion on the ballot in the November 2015 election. The passage of the bond was essential for the district to make much needed renovations and upgrades to school facilities, technology and infrastructure to ensure students are provided a high-quality education and have a safe environment in which to thrive and learn. Among its many advocacy efforts, Rochester Community PTA Council worked to educate all PTA members and families communitywide on the specifics of the bond issue and the importance of getting out to vote. The association’s Council Legislative Committee provided regular updates to members and families to help them better understand the issue and armed them with template letters and scripts to help them feel more comfortable advocating for the issue. With the efforts and contributions of Rochester Community PTA Council, the bond issue passed with 73% support.  

Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award

Joy Grayson (South Carolina)

Joy GraysonJoy Grayson is a passionate advocate for education opportunity and equity for all of South Carolina’s children. As vice president of advocacy for South Carolina PTA, Grayson led the adoption of an annual legislative platform for the association; organized and moderated an annual state legislative conference; and revamped the state membership unit to become a state advocacy unit, engaging community members in PTA who had no affiliation with a local unit. The association also partnered with other education advocacy organizations in South Carolina to develop a Collaborative K-12 Public Education Policy platform. Under Grayson’s leadership, South Carolina PTA has had a real presence at the table. Elected officials have asked for the association’s input on key issues, interest groups have attended meetings to present information, and state officials have participated in South Carolina PTA conventions and conferences. In addition to working at all levels to build and strengthen South Carolina PTA’s position as a compelling education advocate, Grayson has traveled throughout the state to empower all stakeholders to stand up for children. 

Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award

Brian Rodriguez (Florida)

Brian RodriguezBrian Rodriguez has worked to promote civic engagement and increase community involvement among youth of all ages in the Miami area. As a member of the Miami-Dade County Youth Commission and the Miami Lakes Youth Activities Task Force, Rodriguez has collaborated with city officials and education and faith leaders to offer new approaches to provide youth with avenues to be actively involved in the community. Rodriguez’s passion, dedication and leadership have increased youth engagement in the community, helped families grow stronger and improved the local economy. Communities and constituents across the state of Florida have sought Rodriguez’s guidance to help strengthen youth engagement and create a bridge between students, families, schools and civic leaders.

PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Senator Michael BennetSenator Bennet was instrumental to the inclusion of the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA/ESSA). The SFEC program will provide states and districts with the capacity to support effective implementation and enhancement of family engagement policies and initiatives. In addition to his work on family engagement and ESEA/ESSA, Senator Bennet has introduced a number of bills to improve education, including the Service for Schools Act of 2015, Higher Education Innovation Act, Investing in Innovation for Education Act of 2015 and All Kids Matter Act. Senator Bennet has been a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for the past seven years. Prior to his election to Congress, Senator Bennet was superintendent of Denver Public Schools, where he worked to turn around low-performing schools and increase investments in education.

Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA)

Representative Lou BarlettaSince his election in 2011, Congressman Lou Barletta has served on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and supported family engagement issues. Congressman Barletta co-sponsored the Family Engagement in Education Act in 2013 and 2015. The legislation was intended to inform comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA and provide much-needed resources to build effective family-school partnerships. In addition to family engagement, Congressman Barletta has advocated for better access to healthy and nutritious meals for students and introduced the School Food Modernization Act to help schools replace outdated kitchen equipment and improve infrastructure. He also worked to restore the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program in the reauthorization of ESEA/ESSA. The 21st CCLC program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.

About the Awards

Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award

The Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award is presented to a state PTA that, through their dedication, leadership and efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy compatible with PTA’s mission and goals. These efforts must be based on a statewide issue, involve working with multiple organizations or coalitions through grassroots collaboration, and contain a public awareness/advocacy training component for PTA members and the community at large.

Outstanding Local/District/Regional PTA Advocacy Award

The Outstanding Local/District/Regional PTA Advocacy Award is presented to a local, district, council or regional PTA that, through their dedication, leadership and efforts positively affected legislative and/or regulatory policy compatible with PTA’s mission and goals. These efforts must include an education/learning component for PTA members and the community-at-large. Working with multiple organizations or coalitions through grassroots collaboration is preferred.  

Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award

The Shirley Igo Advocate of the Year Award is presented to an individual PTA member, who through their leadership and advocacy efforts, affected federal policy priorities within PTA’s annual Public Policy Agenda. 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 Advocacy Award

The Outstanding Youth Advocacy Award is presented to a young person—who—through his or her creativity, leadership, and dedication, has positively affected policy or change in his or her school or community in a way that aligns with PTA’s mission and goals.

PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award

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.