Building a Community

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Building a Community (Family Engagement)

Schools are at the heart of every community, and the PTA is right there building the connections between teachers, school staff, students, parents, neighbors and the wider community to support their students. Through events, programs, fundraising and community outreach efforts, PTAs across the country are building their communities and creating ties to the school in fun, engaging and innovative ways.

Read the stories of PTAs who are building strong communities through the challenges of distance learning and beyond.

Building a Community

Ardenwood Elementary PTA

Freemont, Calif.

After months of remote learning, the PTA at Ardenwood Elementary School in Fremont, Calif., surveyed the parents and caregivers in their school community about what activities and programs they wanted the PTA to support as students returned to in-person learning. Many parents said they wanted more STEM experiences for students. After not having in-person events in over a year, the PTA decided to use their grant from National PTA and Mathnasium to host a STEM+ Families Math Night. They followed the supplied program guide and recruited high school students – many of whom attended the school when they were younger – as volunteers. Math game stations were created throughout the school, and the PTA provided dinner to all the attendees to encourage working parents to join the fun. The event was free for the entire school community. Mathnasium was in attendance and raffled off free tutoring sessions. The turn-out was great, and the kids were so excited to be together with friends playing fun math games. Parents and grandparents enjoyed the event as well, and many participated in the games with their child. The event successfully engaged the community and brought everyone back together in the school. #HowWePTA


In their own words:
“We saw a lot of families where both parents attended, many along with grandparents. It was really great to see the entire family involved in the games, not just watching their children play.”
—Ardenwood Elementary PTA

Miami Sunset Senior High PTSA

Miami, Fla.

When the Miami Sunset Senior High School in Miami, Fla., experienced several negative incidents tied to social media, the PTSA met with school administrators and several student members to discuss what they could to do combat cyber bullying and educate students on the importance of good digital citizenship. The student members had some amazing ideas! Using their grant from National PTA and TikTok, the PTSA students partnered with a local non-profit to create Heroes of Miami, a group that held information sessions for parents, students and the community on the dangers of cyberbullying and the responsibilities of being a good digital citizen, including denouncing hate speech and how to combat trolling. The group took their information sessions on the road, visiting local middle schools to share this important information. The sessions not only educated students on how to be responsible online, they brought the school community together and bolstered school spirit, because being good digital citizen is everyone’s responsibility! #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“Every one of our students has been impacted by social media. This program provided parents, teachers and students with knowledge that can be used to create a safer online community.”
—Miami Sunset Senior High PTSA

Miami Sunset Senior High

Old River Elementary School PTA

Downey, Calif.

The students at Old River School, a small but mighty elementary school for fourth and fifth graders in Downey, California, were eager to connect with their classmates and teachers while they learned remotely when their schools were closed. The PTA jumped into action to make that happen! Using their grant from National PTA and Huntington Ingalls Industries, they hosted a virtual National PTA STEM + Families Propelling Our World Engineering Night. Using the provided program guide, their volunteers – including school staff – got their students excited about STEM. Through engaging videos, students used the Engineering Design Process to problem-solve different engineering activities. The students were active and engaged during the entire virtual program, with parents watched in the background as students created designs including a parachute. The program was filled with cheers and encouragement from students as they supported each other throughout the event. The school staff were so impressed and appreciated the partnership. Hosting the STEM night really showcased everything the PTA can do for the Old River school community. It was a successful team effort that got students thinking about future careers in STEM! #HowWePTA


In their own words:
“The kids didn’t want to say good night when the event ended. Parents were laughing and students were eagerly showing off their parachute designs. This was an awesome team effort!”
—Old River Elementary School PTA

Ruth Oliver Walker Elementary PTA

Florrissant, Mo.

The Ruth Oliver Walker Elementary PTA in Florissant, Missouri wanted to help improve the vaccination rates among their students, but also wanted to spread the word about other important health screenings to keep their entire community safe and healthy. Using their grant from National PTA and the Department of Health and Human Services’ “We Can Do This” campaign, they partnered with local health care providers, church groups, and the Washington University School of Medicine to host the Empower Health Fair. People attending the fair could get onsite mammograms, PSA screenings, express dental service for kids, and COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots. They used fliers and social media to spread the word and tapped into the Walker PTA Council to encourage members across the area to attend. The PTA provided lunch for the volunteers and raffled a TV to attendees. In all, 26 people were vaccinated at the fair, with others receiving their important health screenings. The Ruth Oliver Walker Elementary truly saved lives! #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“We just wanted to help our community get access the vaccines. The event did so much more for the overall health of community members!”
—Ruth Oliver Walker Elementary PTA


Oak Grove Elementary School

Bloomington, Minn.

When Oak Grove Elementary School in Bloomington, Minnesota reopened after the long shut down due to COVID-19, the PTA was determined to help schools remain open by encouraging healthy habits. However, when the vaccine was approved for kids ages 5 – 11, they realized that their school had a low vaccination rate. They knew that many families were concerned about possible side effects from the vaccine. But with students and staff missing school due to illness, they decided to jump into action to help keep everyone healthy and schools open. Using their grant from National PTA and the Department of Health and Human Services’ “We Can Do This” campaign, they partnered with the Bloomington Health Department and a local food bank to host two vaccination clinics. Using the theme “Everyday Super Heroes,” they distributed information about vaccine safety and efficacy. Students who received their vaccines or boosters at the clinics were entered into a raffle for two Nintendo Switch consoles loaded with Mario Kart 8.  In all, they vaccinated 64 parents and students during their clinics, which the health department said was a great turnout. The Oak Grove vaccination clinics event truly saved lives! #HowWePTA


In their own words:
“You planned a great event! It helped my kiddos feel more comfortable getting their vaccines.”
—Oak Grove Elementary Parent

Little Run Elementary School

Annandale, Va.

Uninsured, underprivileged and undocumented populations have the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates. The PTA at Little Run Elementary School in Annandale, Va., knew that over half of all households in the communities surrounding their school spoke English as a second language. 30 percent were Hispanic. The PTA was concerned about the health and wellbeing of their community, so used their grant from National PTA and the Department of Health and Human Services’ “We Can Do This” campaign to host two COVID-19 vaccination clinics. They partnered with the Fairfax County Health Department, who administered free vaccines and boosters from a local community center. Their events were also attended by local elected officials. In all, they vaccinated 82 parents, kids, and senior citizens during their clinics, which the health department said was a great turnout. The Little Run vaccination clinics event truly saved lives! #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“Our clinics made a difference, and we did get people who were hesitant to get their first dose. The health department was genuinely impressed with our turnout!”
—Little Run Elementary PTA

Little Run Elementary PTA

Oak Crest Intermediate PTA

San Antonio, Texas

The PTA at Oak Crest Intermediate School in San Antonio, Texas, recognized that more of their students were gaining access to electronic devices at an earlier age. They also knew that most kids didn’t have the maturity to manage what was safe and appropriate on the internet. Because they live in an area where child trafficking is a serious problem, they decided to take action to keep kids safe online. They used their grant from National PTA and Norton LifeLock to host a PTA Connected Smart Talk program. The Smart Talk helps kids and adults have important conversations about online activity. The PTA brought parents and students together and shared many different online scenarios that could lead to trouble. Parents learned about different apps and security safeguards to monitor and limit their child's activity. Students learned how to maturely navigate all forms of social interactions on the internet, and to be responsible with when online. Families that had older and younger siblings also discovered what to watch out for kids of all ages, and how to have important conversations about online activity with all of their children to keep them safe online. #HowWePTA

Oak Crest Intermediate PTA

In their own words:
“This program brought to light how much our children are exposed to that we may not even be aware of.”
—Oak Crest Intermediate PTA

Homeville Elementary School PTA

West Mifflin, Pa.

The teachers at Homeville Elementary School in West Mifflin, Pa., wanted to build a STEAM lab in the school. While they had great ideas and resources, they were having trouble getting it off the ground. That’s when the PTA jumped in! Using their grant from National PTA and Bayer Fund, they decided to host PTA’s STEM + Families Science Festival and use the opportunity to unveil their new STEAM lab. They also used their grant funding to promote the event, which created a positive buzz throughout the school community as plans came together for a night full of STEM learning. Using the supplied program guide, the festival included hands-on learning activities at different stations set up throughout the school. One parent at the ice cream station exclaimed “I can’t believe that actually worked!” As students and parents moved through different STEM stations, they were invited to tour the new STEAM lab. Every student, no matter the grade or academic level, shared their excitement about the lab, where they will create, problem solve and find success in STEM! The teachers noted that the looks of wonder and awe on the faces of students and parents really made the journey to open the lab worth it. They are thankful for the PTA and Bayer Fund for supporting developing a love of STEM in the students at Homeville Elementary. #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“Our science festival and new STEAM Lab kicked off our school-wide STEM programming. After the science festival, and for the first time, students in grades kindergarten through third grade began participating in STEM-curriculum during their academic school day.”
—Homeville Elementary School

Homeville Elementary PTA

Morning Creek Elementary PTA

San Diego, Calif.

The PTA at Morning Creek Elementary School in San Diego, Calif., was reinvigorated when the school welcomed students back after the long closure due to COVID. They increased recruitment efforts, and for the first time had active room parent volunteers in nearly every classroom. With all the excitement to be back in school, they jumped at the opportunity to hold their first in-person event in two years. Using their grant from National PTA and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the PTA hosted a National PTA Stem + Families Propelling Our World Engineering Night. Students, parents, grandparents, and siblings came out for a fun night of STEM. Using the program guide, they set up stations with different engineering activities. The students designed rafts and built bridges, all while learning about the Engineering Design Process and having fun with friends and families. All of the students were given lab coats and goggles, just like real scientists! A parent also bought in their telescope for kids to peek at the stars. In all, 300 people attended the event, which was filled with excitement, laughter, and a new love of STEM. #HowWePTA

Morning Creek Elementary PTA

In their own words:
“We believe this program sparked interest in science among students who formerly had no interest and showed that science can be fun.”
—Morning Creek Elementary PTA

Andrus Elementary School PTA

Boise, Idaho

When the principal at Andrus Elementary School in Boise, Idaho, observed that many students were using devices at the bus stop that didn’t appear to have safety filters for accessing appropriate content, she asked the PTA for help. The PTA was already thinking about online safety programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While students, teachers, family members and groups were able to connect virtually during the pandemic, this also carried risks that many parents weren’t aware of, especially to vulnerable young children. They decided to use their grant from National PTA and Norton to host a PTA Connected Smart Talk program. Smart Talk helps kids and adults have important conversations about being safe online. Families came together for an engaging, informative evening where they talked about online safety and how to set rules and filters for young children. Through this program, families are equipped to make better digital decisions now and as their kids move on to middle and high school. #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“The best part was seeing families talk about their values and how they would implement rules to reflect those values.”
—Andrus Elementary School PTA

Andrus Elementary School PTA

Bells Ferry Elementary School PTA

Marietta, Ga.

Prior to the pandemic, the Bells Ferry Elementary School PTA in Marietta, Ga., hosted several popular social events at the school each year, which stopped when schools closed and students moved to remote learning. When schools reopened, they wanted to bring the community together again, but wanted to focus on supporting students academically after their remote learning experience. They also have a diverse population that speaks a wide variety of languages, so they wanted to ensure that any program they hosted was inclusive. They settled on a program that incorporated the universal language – math! Using their grant from National PTA and Mathnasium, they hosted a STEM+ Families Math Night. They followed the supplied program guide and recruited high school students as volunteers, expanding the community involvement. They set-up an estimation station when students first walked into the building to pique their interest, then guided them through stations throughout the school where they could play math games. The event successfully engaged the community and brought everyone back together in the school. #HowWePTA

Bells Ferry Elementary School PTA

In their own words:
“After 2 years of disrupted learning, our students needed support in lots of different ways. This program helped make math less scary and provided reinforcement of math skills in a super fun way.”
—Dana Stassen, PTA President

Twin Echo Elementary PTA

Collinsville, Ill.

The Twin Echo elementary school PTA in Collinsville, Ill., is always on the look-out for low- or no-cost ways to engage their school community, where 100% of the students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. They knew from surveys that parents were interested in getting involved with PTA and wanted to have more activities, but cost was a barrier. So, when the school district lifted restrictions on in-person activities, they used their grant from National PTA and Bayer to host PTA’s STEM + Families Science Festival. Using the supplied program guide, they transformed their classrooms into science stations where teachers facilitated different science experiments. From making lava lamps to sticking skewers through inflated balloons, the students loved the hands-on learning activities. This was the first PTA activity held after returning from remote learning, and the kids jumped right in, working in groups and connecting with classmates. The PTA wanted to extend the learning – and the fun! – while engaging students at home, so they gave every student a take-home science kit full additional science experiments. #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“For the past two years we have not been able to share supplies, work in groups, or do any hands-on group activities. It was terrific to see students in partners or groups working together and discussing the experiments.”
—Twin Echo PTA  

In their own words:
“One parent told me that her son was soooo excited about the Science Festival Day. She told me ‘Science was his jam!’”
—Twin Echo PTA  

Twin Echo PTA

Panther Run Elementary PTA

Pembroke Pines, Fla.

The teachers at Panther Run Elementary School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., were looking for ways to spark an interest in STEM—so their PTA jumped into action! Using their grant from National PTA and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the PTA hosted a National PTA STEM + Families Engineering Night. Using the program guide, they transformed their school into a STEM game, where families were challenged with different engineering tasks as they moved through various stations. The students made parachutes and built bridges, all while learning about the Engineering Design Process and having fun with friends and families. The PTA promoted the event in both English and Spanish to reach all the families in their largely bilingual community, and it paid off—the attendance was higher than any event they ever had! #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“Panther Run is about family and for families, and it is important to us to involve parents and siblings in every way we can in order to not only invest in the student but invest in their family and future as well.”
—Panther Run PTA  

In their own words:
“I was thrilled to see parents really involved in the various activities. I loved watching one of our fourth graders working on a parachute with his dad as they were discussing the design they were creating and how to improve on it.”
—Panther Run PTA  

Panther Run PTA

Cedar Hill Collegiate Prep Elementary PTA

Cedar Hill, Texas

When the beloved librarian at Cedar Hill Collegiate Prep Elementary School in Cedar Hill, Texas, passed away suddenly, the PTA started searching for a way to honor and celebrate her memory. Using their grant from National PTA and Office Depot, they built a Little Free Library at a local park and hosted a community event in her memory to celebrate the opening. Families were invited to donate books to stock the shelves and find a book that sparked their interest, showcasing the amazing benefits of the library. Their librarian’s sister attended the event along with students, families, teachers, members of the school administration, and the general community. The PTA offered sweet treats and a special bookmark to everyone that came out to celebrate and encouraged attendees to share their favorite memories of their beloved librarian. They filled their Little Free Library that day and are so happy to support and encourage a love of reading with a library that is open and accessible to everyone in their community. #HowWePTA

Cedar Hill Collegiate Prep Elementary PTA

In their own words:
“Many of our books came from our young scholars’ personal stashes. It was so sweet to hear some of them talk about how they chose which books to bring.”
—Cedar Hill Collegiate Prep Elementary PTA  

Howard Bishop Middle School PTSA

Gainsville, Fla.

The principal at Howard Bishop Middle School in Gainesville, Fla., asked the PTSA to help build a stronger community at the school and strengthen parent engagement. The PTSA took up the challenge! Using their Norton LifeLock grant, they hosted an in-person family engagement night featuring the PTA Connected Smart Talk program. Smart Talk helps kids and adults have important conversations about being safe online. They called on school administrators, teachers, and the school counselor talk about what they are seeing at school with social media that parents might not be seeing at home. They also led break-out groups during the event, with families rotating through the different groups and answering prompt questions to open the lines of communication about staying safe online. The event was a huge success and offered a thought-provoking experience that helped families have really important conversations in a safe, collaborative environment. #HowWePTA

In their own words:
“This was a great start to an important conversation about family values and expectations. Parents don't always know what is happening and through programs like this, we are educating them and raising awareness about how their kids are using technology.”
—Howard Bishop Middle School PTSA

Howard Bishop Middle School PTSA

Metro E. School of Design PTA

Corpus Christi, Texas

Last year, Metro Elementary School of Design in Corpus Christi, Texas, and their PTA leaders set out to improve their family engagement efforts to support in-school learning at home. So, they set out to plan and host virtual literacy nights, science nights and other fun events throughout the school year. They took care to ensure that all Metro Elementary families felt welcome, and that the events were inclusive of all students, who ranged in age from kindergarten to sixth grade. Despite the pandemic, the events were well-attended—and both the PTA and the school feel that making connections with families has helped to improve the communication and collaboration between school and home. #HowWePTA #PTAExcellence

Metro School of Design PTA

Dentzler Elementary PTA

Parma, Ohio

Dentzler Elementary School PTA in Parma, Ohio, realized they couldn’t sit back and wait for the country to open back up, so they signed up for the School of Excellence program and put their health and safety improvement plans into motion. The pandemic would change these plans repeatedly, but they were determined to see their school succeed, and learned how to navigate digital meetings, submitted weekly PTA updates in the principal’s newsletter and relied on the “BackPack Express” to keep the school’s families informed. Dentzler Elementary prides itself on their strong partnership between school and family, and despite the pandemic, this partnership has not only endured, but thrived because their PTA was so committed to supporting their community’s positivity, hope and—at some points—sanity. They created fun and engaging events (like a Snowman making competition!) that transformed an uncertain school year into one that created memories that families will treasure. #HowWePTA #PTAExcellence

In their own words:
“The School of Excellence program has allowed us to celebrate our successes and to focus on specific areas that need improvement within our school community. It’s also showed us how critical PTA is to connect and inform all stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to develop a school community that puts students first, is dynamic, involves everyone, and creates a sense of belonging.”
—Dentzler Elementary School PTA Member
In their own words:
“Dentzler is an excellent school for all families. The Dentzler PTA went way beyond my expectations this past COVID year to keep families involved. The list of positive comments from our families demonstrates the great relationship PTA and the staff have and how determined we were to make it a success.”
—Dentzler Elementary School Parent

Dentzler Elementary PTA

Baldy Mesa Elementary PTA

Phelan, Calif.

Baldy Mesa Elementary PTA in Phelan, Calif., set out to strengthen family-school partnerships through the School of Excellence program, even as the pandemic brought chaos. The start of the school year saw some students remote learning, others learning in-person a few days a week, and even a small group independently learning through the district's homeschool program. This unknown territory brought challenges to their community, including food insecurity and negative impacts on mental health. So, Baldy Mesa Elementary PTA did what PTAs do best—they connected families, teachers, students and administrators to support every child. They came up with a plan to use multiple forms of communication to make sure everyone knew where to look for help and how to stay connected with the school. The PTA's constant communication allowed their school community to feel connected, educated, informed, supported and most importantly loved. #HowWePTA #PTAExcellence

In their own words:
“The School of Excellence process offered a wonderful opportunity for our school to reflect on what we do well and where we can grow to best serve our students, families, and community, as a whole.”
—Shad Grijalva, Baldy Mesa Elementary School Principal

SOE-Baldy Mesa

Scott L. Libby Elementary PTA

Litchfield Park, Ariz.

Like most of the world, the PTA at Scott L. Libby Elementary School in Litchfield Park, Ariz., saw their school year start virtually last year, and they were challenged with finding ways to engage families, staff and students. They enrolled in the National PTA School of Excellence program, which gave them exclusive access to apply for Phase 1 of the PTA COVID-19 Relief Grants, sponsored by TikTok. These grant funds enabled Scott Libby PTA to keep their school’s morale high and their community tightknit. They distributed wellness bags, held virtual events and even formed new committees—including a male engagement committee—to continue to focus on the mental, social and emotional health of their school community. Their efforts ensured every child and family at Scott Libby Elementary School felt welcomed, supported and included during a very challenging time. #HowWePTA #PTAExcellence

In their own words:
“I can’t thank the PTA enough for making all of this happen for our students here at Scott Libby! It was so amazing to see their faces light up!”
—Mrs. Lauren Reuhrmund    

“[Our PTA is] incredible. The investment in our kids is beautiful. Thank you!” 
—Mrs. Krystal Contreras

Scott L. Libby Elementary School

Eagle Ridge Elementary PTSA

Phoenix, Ariz.

The Eagle Ridge ES PTSA in Phoenix, Ariz., wanted to help students and families feel connected to the school while distance learning. Using their COVID-19 PTA Relief Fund Grant sponsored by NortonLifeLock, they hosted fun drive-thru events regularly to get families on campus in a safe way.

Their most popular event was Story Time, adapted from an in-school tradition. On the night of Story Time, families were invited to drive through the parking lot to pick up dinner, where they were greeted by Santa and given a book. Kids then went home to enjoy their meal while teachers read stories to them virtually. As a fun surprise, Santa read the final story! #HowWePTA #PTAProud.

ER Drive-thru
ER Drive-thru Dinner

In their own words:
Since we are remote, just even driving on the campus gave the students a lot of smiles. Families are grateful for these events, which provide food and family engagement. Thank you National PTA and Norton Lifelock for helping us stay connected.

Collier Elementary PTA

Tucson, Ariz.

It’s hard to keep students and families connected to the school during distance learning. To overcome the challenges and bring the school community together, the Collier Elementary School PTA in Tucson, Ariz. used their COVID-19 PTA Relief Fund Grant sponsored by NortonLifeLock to develop themed wellness kits for every student. Themes included school spirit and international and academic games, as well as activities to support math literacy, STEM activities and art. They also created Monster Mash and Elf Workshop kits, which tied back to their traditional in-school activities for Halloween and the winter holidays. We are so PTA Proud of their creativity in helping the kids stay connected to their school during this unusual time! #HowWePTA #PTAProud

In their own words:
These funds are allowing our community to come together in ways not previously possible. Thanks NortonLifeLock and National PTA for this opportunity.

Collier Elementary - how we PTA

Mill Creek Elementary PTA

Lenexa, Kan.

The abrupt closure of Mill Creek Elementary in Lenexa, Kan., left students feeling anxious and disappointed. To bring the community together from a distance, the Mill Creek PTA used their COVID-19 Relief Grant sponsored by TikTok to create PRIDE Boxes for every student, which included information about local wellness resources, crafts, playing cards, and a card that students could draw or write messages on to send to family, friends, or frontline workers. The boxes also included a small lock for them to personalize and place in front of the school to create a powerful, visual message of togetherness. #PTAProud #HowWePTA

In their own words:
Even though we are physically distanced, we are standing strong together as a Mustang family. Thank you National PTA and TikTok for helping us stay connected.

How We PTA - Mill Creek

Scott Libby Elementary PTA

Litchfield Park, Ariz.

With some students learning virtually and others doing a hybrid learning model, it was important to the Scott Libby Elementary PTA in Litchfield Park, Ariz., to keep school spirit high and the entire school community connected. Using their COVID 19 Relief Fund Grant sponsored by NortonLifeLock, they purchased wellness bags for all of their students, which included a t-shirt with the school motto. The PTA also gave t-shirts to all of their teachers. Students and teachers can wear their t-shirts proudly while out, showing they are part of the Scott Libby Elementary School community. The bags also included wellness items like hand sanitizer, dental tool kits (donated by a local dentist), and books for every student (donated by a local non-profit). #HowWePTA #PTAProud

In their own words:
The bags turned out great! My students are already planning a day when we can all wear our shirts together.
—Scott Libby Elementary School Teacher

Scott Libby Elementary PTA Collage Work

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