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PTAs gather annual awards

Posted: May 18, 2009 9:55 p.m.
Updated: May 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Parent-Teacher Association from three local elementary schools were awarded for their involvements with school and community outreach at the California State PTA Convention.

Winners from Mountainview, North Park and North Lake Hills Elementary schools, designated as the 34th district, were recognized for their efforts in membership and community activities exhibited by the units and their presidents at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on May 1.

"This organization is amazing to me," said North Park Elementary PTA President, Laurie Leahy, recipient of this year's Teacher, Staff and Administrator Involvement Award. "Parents and teachers are so dedicated to getting involved and enriching children's education. Not just for their own children, but for all of them."

Leahy's unit was also recognized as the 2009 Outstanding Unit among PTA units across California for overall excellence in all of the categories of the awards.

The PTA is a band of school administrators, teachers and parents who work together to promote enrichment programs and outreach activities for students.

But rallying for better education is no easy task.

"I am constantly asked, ‘What does PTA do?'" Leahy said. "There are so many programs and extra-curricular activities we plan that it's hard to think about what we don't do."

PTA's advocacy efforts include fundraisers for school ventures and projects such as assemblies, field trips and drama productions.

In addition to school activities and educational tools, the organization increases community awareness through outreach projects.

Amid budget cuts to education and harsh economic times within the community, PTA efforts to reach out stay strong and also get creative. "This year, we chose to give back something that people will always need," said North Lake Hills PTA President Annette Heinrich.

Heinrich, whose unit won the Allied Agency/Community Partner Involvement Award at the convention, broke records at the unit's school for conducting a one-day blood drive that collected 163 pints of blood.

Students at North Lake were encouraged to ask relatives, neighbors, friends and fellow community members to participate in the event and donate something of more value than money.

"We know that times are tough," Heinrich said. "Instead of having our hand out, we hoped to motivate students to think about other ways to help. We reached our goals and the students got an extra recess for their efforts."

Other service projects done by local PTA units were motivational as well.

The PTA unit at Mountainview Elementary in Saugus, for instance, got involved in its own outreach projects.

"Every month, we focused on a service project that gave the students a chance to give back," said Mountainview PTA President Tami Stephens.

The school won multiple awards for its efforts in the categories of membership creativity, parent involvement and outreach.

Among other outreach services given by Mountainview, students at the school adopted a 65-man medic unit that was deployed to Iraq, collected coins for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and donated Halloween candy to the children's hospital for children who couldn't trick-or-treat.

"We strive to take our involvement to levels beyond our buildings on campus," Stephens said.

Sabrina Utter, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Council PTA, sees the local PTAs as focused units.

"This is a network made up of a group of individuals who are all focused on the best interests of the entire school community," Utter said. "With every school trip planned or assembly organized by the PTA, a child's eyes will open to a whole new world. It becomes about the experience of each and every child, and how you are helping them see those worlds."

"Without parents volunteering their time, none of these activates would exist," Leahy said. "The PTAs in this valley are filled with dedicated individuals who are all striving to make our children's experiences a great one."

"There isn't anything more important than the future of the children," Stephens said. "This valley is so fortunate to have a large group of enthusiastic parents that are both involved and willing to strive for the best for all students."


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