It’s About Showing Up

Right after my second daughter was born, I made an appointment to tour what would one day become my children’s high school. It was 2007. Class of 2022 and 2025 seemed extremely far away. But I was ready. I was prepared, and I was so excited.

I was excited for my children to experience it because school was a very big part of my childhood. Growing up as a principal’s daughter means that you spend a lot of time on campus. I grew up surrounded by a very big chosen family of educators. I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by the support system I had. I wanted to make sure my children had a similar experience. I knew I was going to have to get involved.

A few years later, as the first day of kindergarten approached, I found myself flooded with excitement. The first day outfits had been handmade and displayed on top of the guest bed for at least a month. New shoes were acquired and finally, the alarms were set. The day dawned and I was Christmas morning-level excited. I signed up for everything – room parent, field trip chaperone, and Girl Scout leader. But, what about PTA? I remembered my mother being in PTA. I remember her going to meetings after school or baking cookies for a bake sale. I remember her staying late at the school the nights of the talent show. Surely, I could bake a few cookies and clap loudly at a talent show? I signed up.

A few weeks later, I was asked if I was interested in joining the PTA executive board at our campus. Sure. Why not? I was ready to be involved. I remember the PTA president driving over to my house and handing me a large, heavy binder. It was more of a scrapbook detailing my new job as a board member. It was beautifully crafted and so organized. I immediately felt like I was way over my head. I couldn’t do this! I wasn’t organized. I wasn’t crafty. I didn’t even own a glue stick. I called her that night and said I couldn’t do it. I told her I thought I was signing up to help bake brownies and clap loudly at the talent show. I was overwhelmed. She assured me that I didn’t have to be crafty or organized and that I just had to be myself. She said, “Carolyn, please just show up. I know it seems like a lot and in some ways it is. Just show up, you’ll see.”

Skeptical and still unsure of my abilities, I stayed on, and I showed up. I went to the first meeting. Many of the parents at the meeting seemed to know each other. They were laughing at inside jokes and the principal was sitting with them. I felt like an outsider. I was a young mom. I was new. I had a two-year-old on my hip. I stood out. I had immediate imposter syndrome. The meeting was exciting. They weren’t just talking about bake sales. They were talking about getting care packages for underprivileged kids. They were talking about creating an afterschool reading club. They were discussing funding field trips and inviting a congressman to campus. This was interesting to me, so I stuck around and kept showing up.

After a few meetings I understood the inside jokes. I got to know the principal. I was on three committees, and I was excited. I also understood I was in for a lot more than just brownies and clapping. PTA was bigger, more involved, more important, and beyond anything I dreamed. It was hard for me to explain to others, so instead of explaining it, I started just asking folks to show up.

There are many preconceived notions about PTA. People generally think of bake sales, gossip, and bedazzled shirts. Once, someone asked me if I joined PTA because I didn’t have anything better to do. PTA is so much deeper than any stereotype or stigma attached to it. PTA doesn’t function as it is depicted on TV shows or movies. A PTA is more than just selling tickets to a fall fest or chaperoning dances. A PTA is the important connection of parents, teachers, and community members. This association comes together and shows up to improve and support the educational process of this upcoming generation.

My very first PTA president told me that a PTA was about showing up. I didn’t need to be crafty or be able to make a spreadsheet. I just needed to show up. Sometimes showing up looks like greeting people at the door. Sometimes it looks like gathering school supplies for a child who is without their own, or writing letters and emails to representatives to inform them that you do think that public education is important. Sometimes we march. Sometimes we go to board meetings instead of helping with dinner. Sometimes we stay after school to read to a kid that is not our own. We show up. We make a difference.

It can be a thankless job. Other parents don’t always realize that the reason their kids get to go on that field trip is because of the PTA. Students don’t understand that the reason they get to meet an author is because of the PTA. Some community members don’t realize the reason why we have a carnival is because of the PTA. Sometimes, the world doesn’t realize that laws have changed and been made because of the PTA. Invite them to show up. Invite them to join the PTA so they can understand all the things we are about. We aren’t just making brownies. We are a thunderous voice made up of stay-at-home parents, working parents, grandparents, caregivers, community members, educators, staff members, and friends who all share a vision. We all want to create an environment where students can succeed.

There is no force or voice like a strong PTA. I have the incredible opportunity to visit dozens and dozens of campuses every typical school year and within minutes I can tell two things. I can tell if they have a strong administrative team, and I can tell if they have a strong PTA. A strong PTA can create magic out of four white walls. A strong PTA can take a rained-out field day and create an indoor obstacle course in the cafeteria in under an hour. A strong PTA can come together and turn a stressful testing week into a game. A strong PTA can clothe a student whose clothes don’t fit and make them walk away a little taller. A strong PTA can change a school, change a life, and change a mind. The mission can sometimes look a little daunting, but a strong PTA can always bring the magic.

As LAUNCH approaches, I find myself with renewed excitement. I have always looked forward to this summer training event. I enjoy seeing old friends and making new ones. This year, however, I am literally counting down the days. I cannot wait to see what mountains our PTAs will climb this year. We have all endured a challenging time. However, we are ready, and we will show up like never before. After almost two years of zoom meetings and drive-by celebrations, I am so excited to show up.

I have had the honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with so many PTAs over the years. When we come together, we have a thunderous voice. When we get loud, there is no choice but to hear us. We make a difference. We show up. We create change, and we make one heck of a brownie.

See y’all at LAUNCH!


Ready for Healthy Lifestyles Planning?

Wow! How is summer almost here? Even though the 2021-2022 school year and PTA year are ending, it’s never too early to start planning for next year.

The identified National Observances that can be found in Texas PTA’s new Healthy Lifestyles Year-at-a-Glance resource are meant to help coordinate themes throughout the year. You may wish to have a theme per month or only try two to three themes per year. The best programs are created by people who are responding to the needs and interests of their own PTA members. This may be accomplished by using a simple survey or identifying them with your Healthy Lifestyles committee at the beginning of the year.

Remember to always check with your principal before sending anything home to all the parents. Also, check the Healthy Lifestyles newsletter for coordination tips on National Observances throughout the year.

Post-COVID tips for male engagement

Well, it may be a little ambitious to say we are “post-COVID,” but I think we can all agree that this school year is a vast improvement over the 2020-21 school year. For the most part, in-person learning is back, and schools all across the country have done what schools always do – they adapt and overcome.

Regardless of the challenges facing us, one thing remains constant. Our kids need our support and encouragement at school and at home, possibly now more than ever.

There have always been barriers to achieving successful family engagement in general, and it seems there are even more barriers to achieving successful male engagement specifically. Some of those challenges are real and some are imagined, but both can be overcome with some of the same strategies and considerations.

In order to better understand how things have changed since COVID, and what some schools are doing to adapt, I wanted to talk with someone who has spent a few years being heavily involved and committed to increasing male engagement at the local and state levels.

James Strickland is a husband, father, and business owner. He and his wife Georgia have three children attending school at Katy ISD in Katy, Texas. Georgia is also a business owner and serves as Texas PTA Vice President Membership.

Katy ISD is a large school district with 70 schools and almost 89,000 students. In his role as the WATCH D.O.G.S. TOP DOG Extraordinaire, James has provided training and support for many of the 54 registered WATCH D.O.G.S. schools in Katy as well as regularly serving as a volunteer himself. Additionally, his role as Texas PTA Male Engagement Liaison has expanded his efforts and influence across the state.

During our conversation, James reiterated that he felt the most important thing a volunteer could do in this day and age is have their priorities in line. If your primary goal is to serve the kids and the school, then you will need to abide by whatever guidelines your school has provided.

The teachers and the administrators have tough jobs under the best of circumstances, and navigating the ever-challenging and ever-changing COVID protocols only make their jobs more difficult.

Please understand that no matter what guidelines the school district or the principal have in place, someone will disagree with them. Don’t volunteer unless you are willing to follow the current school protocols.

James said that Katy ISD made it easy for their parent volunteers to keep up with the current guidelines because they have several helpful links on their website. There you can see the current number of active cases in the school district, self report if you have tested positive, schedule a COVID test if you have symptoms or have had direct exposure, and view the school district’s complete plan for returning back to school safely.

We looked at a dozen school district websites from across the country, and every single one had information regarding COVID and the school’s current COVID protocols.

Many parents may not realize that their school district has provided excellent resources that will be vital to understanding the expectations of a volunteer. Be sure to utilize the COVID protocol information your district has provided and contact your principal’s office with any questions prior to volunteering.

Here are just a few do’s and don’ts for you to consider as a school volunteer, especially during these challenging times.


  • Always know the current volunteer guidelines of your district and school. Especially regarding COVID, but also in general too.
  • Understand that your superintendent, principal, and teachers have the best interest of your student in mind, and every decision and rule they make is in serious consideration of their safety.
  • Have empathy for your superintendent, principal, and teachers, and don’t make their jobs even more difficult.
  • Agree to follow the prescribed COVID guidelines when you volunteer.
  • Always set a good example for the kids. Be cheerful and encouraging. We hear from educators regularly that the current situation is adding additional stress to many students. Your influence can make a huge difference in the quality of their school day.
  • Thank every person who works at the school when you have the opportunity. Certainly, the teachers and the principal, but also the secretary, school nurse, cafeteria staff, and custodians. Showing appreciation will make a huge difference.
  • Remember that family engagement at school begins at home. Make time every day to ask your child about school. Be aware of their social and academic successes and challenges.
  • Remember that the teachers and principal are your partners in your child’s education. Having a good relationship with them will make everything flow a little easier and contribute to the best possible outcomes for your child.
  • Make volunteering a priority. Regular volunteers are some of the busiest people we know, and they always have somewhere else they could be, they just made the time to help others.


  • Underestimate the power of simply showing up and asking how you can help.

The bottom line: we can continue to experience robust and effective family and community engagement in our schools, as long as we work together and keep the best interest of the kids in mind.

Our kids deserve the best educational conditions we can provide, and the support of the moms, dads and grandparents will make a huge contribution to a positive and productive learning environment. Make the commitment to volunteer today.



Eric Snow is the president and co-founder of WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students).

This article was originally published by National PTA.

How two PTAs are making waves with DEI

In January 2022, National PTA awarded grants to local PTAs to enhance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices in their schools and communities. Two PTAs in Texas won these grants, and we spoke to them about what DEI looks like on their campuses. Erika Bodoin is President of Bertha Casey Elementary School PTA in Austin ISD, and Meenal McNary is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Chair of Ridgeview Middle School PTA in Round Rock ISD. 

How it started:

Erika Bodoin thinks her PTA just got lucky. “We ended up having very equity-focused board members,” she said. The board members at Bertha Casey Elementary School PTA are constantly challenging themselves to see through an equity lens and asking, ‘whose voice is missing?’ In connecting with the district administration, teachers and parents, Bertha Casey Elementary School PTA is focusing on language access and community feedback.

Meenal McNary’s PTA started its DEI standing committee a couple of years ago. Ridgeview Middle School PTA chose to focus on three action areas of racial equity, special education and Genders and Sexualities Alliances. The PTA recently started hosting listening sessions called “Community Conversations” where they’ve been able to “really get down to the nitty-gritty about what [the community] needs PTA to do,” McNary said. “I don’t think you can fulfill every child’s potential unless you approach it with equity and unless you recognize lived experiences,” she said. Ridgeview Middle School PTA does just that. Notably, the PTA is helping the Genders and Sexualities Alliances group create a guide on common and acceptable language, hosting listening sessions with their diverse community and purchasing black-authored books from local bookstores.

What Bertha Casey Elementary and Ridgeview Middle schools have in common is that they both got early support from the campus and district administration. Specifically, both Bodoin and McNary have worked directly with their district equity departments. Specific district staff are dedicated to these efforts and have been supportive of the PTAs’ work.

How it’s going:

McNary says this work is a “long-time coming.” Ridgeview Middle School PTA is working to connect the dots between recognizing lived experiences and achieving the mission of PTA.

Through understanding the school demographic data, education gaps and racial makeup, both PTAs are growing to understand the direct needs of their communities.

With educators carrying such a heavy load, McNary and Bertha Casey Elementary School PTA focus on supporting and uplifting teachers to fill in the gaps and get closer to fulfilling every child’s potential. For Ridgeview Middle School PTA, this means providing resources and services that help teachers recognize when something is not equitable, fair or accessible.

Although progress can be slow, Bodoin says, “the DEI grant provides a structure for getting even more feedback from historically marginalized groups.” Bertha Casey Elementary School PTA uses that feedback to figure out where the association and school are coming up short. The PTA is considering spending the grant money on a globally understood unifier, food. To Bodoin, providing snacks or a meal at some of these community conversations has the potential to form a more welcoming and relaxed gathering.

Why DEI:

For McNary, it’s personal. “Based on personal experience, and what my children have dealt with in school, I feel that it’s important that children be seen and be heard. PTA’s mission that every child reaches their full potential, in my mind, was not being fulfilled. So, I wanted to change that,” she said. McNary and Ridgeview Middle School PTA started with changing the makeup of an all-white executive board – adding men and people of color.

For Bodoin, interest in DEI started in 2014 when she attended an “Undoing Racism” workshop. “It made me see that my dynamic on my campus was affected by me being a white woman,” she said. Through changing community demographics and a mostly brown executive board, Bodoin’s years of antiracism work took on new meaning.

For PTAs looking at starting DEI groups, McNary and Bodoin have some advice. Bodoin has found that the concept doesn’t typically need selling. She explained that people know that related work is needed. Starting DEI groups just requires a thoughtful approach.

Both McNary and Bodoin say that gaining administrator support and listening to the community are the keys to success. Both say that the PTA leaders they work with make a difference as well. “I’ve never worked with such amazing people, and it warms my heart to collaborate so closely with people who feel so strongly about this mission,” McNary said. Bodoin challenges PTAs to ask, ‘Do you feel like your leadership represents your community?’ If not, she encourages PTAs to figure out why.

Looking to the future, the PTAs at Bertha Casey Elementary and Ridgeview Middle schools are poised to have influence.



Texas and National PTA have extensive resources on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Check out, and to learn more.

Addressing the Digital Divide: Texas PTA Forms Texas Digital Access Coalition

COVID-19 has forced each of us to reassess how we operate within our home, workplace, and community. The pandemic has magnified many systemic inequities that the Texas Legislature must address during the upcoming legislative session (beginning January 2021) and well beyond. Namely, the digital divide, a person’s lack of access to a reliable device and broadband internet connection, has quickly become one of the largest barriers Texans young and old have been forced to overcome.

When the pandemic shuttered school buildings across the state, Texas PTA became increasingly concerned by the reports of hundreds of thousands of students unable to access the digital tools needed to be successful in virtual learning. While the transition to online learning and working was difficult for most, communities of low income, traditionally underserved populations, and rural areas felt the strain more than others. Students around the state and country have been unable to effectively receive quality educational services without access to connectivity and devices.

Texas PTA also knows that student success isn’t entirely dependent on their experience in the classroom. Many community-based services—like access to healthcare, vocational training or employment, and e-commerce—are just as critical to the success of our youth, their parents, and the communities where they live.

According to Connected Nation Texas, almost 1 million Texans do not have access to broadband at home. And at least 333,000 households with connectivity do not have the minimum connectivity necessary to attend school, visit a doctor online, or work from home.¹

Texas PTA has joined with the Greater Houston Partnership to co-found the Texas Digital Access Coalition (TDAC) and advocate for reliable, accessible, and affordable connectivity for all sectors of our state. Aiming to address this challenge from a broader lens, TDAC is bringing together not only advocates for education but also representatives from the healthcare and workforce development industries and from rural, urban, and suburban community employers. In today’s world, digital access is tied to success in school, work, and every aspect of daily life.

TDAC will advocate for a comprehensive plan and long-term funding to address disparities across the state caused by inequitable digital access. It is critical that all Texans have access to affordable connectivity and devices needed to utilize programs and services that support and enhance educational opportunities; increase the availability of telehealth services; and that help adults prepare for, secure, and advance in jobs and careers; and participate in e-commerce.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a 21st Century truth – digital access and digital literacy are essential. They level the playing field throughout all aspects of our lives. Texas PTA is excited to be working alongside not only our friends in the education sector but also with those who serve the welfare of our students and families through healthcare, workforce, and commerce.