When Sam Macer told the story of how he became a foster parent today at the White House, he became choked up. So did the moderator of the panel of parent standouts who had been named White House Champions of Change.
"Can I come live with you?," Macer's future foster daughter asked him. The first time he said, "No." But when she asked him later, again, he relented. Not only did Macer and his wife take the girl in, but they agreed to foster her younger sister as well. It was the beginning of a long and fulfilling journey.
"Research says foster children are often two to three grade levels behind their peers in terms of math and reading skills," says Macer. They need help, and so do their foster parents—so Macer launched the Maryland Foster Parent PTA. "Foster parents need a great parent-engagement program," Macer said. Several years ago, he combined content from the National PTA with child-welfare information designed to help foster parents who deal with foster children's trauma to give Maryland foster parents support.
Macer was one of the 12 White House Champions of Change during PTA Day at the White House, an event that drew 150 attendees.
Champion of Change recipients honored today communicated their views about parent involvement and the role the PTA plays. They also blogged about some of their "parent engagement" breakthroughs.
Among the stories:
Sharon Whitworth of Kentucky explains how she reached more than 9,000 parents and community members through 50 workshops to educate them about the Common Core State Standards.
Anne Stafford launched Parent Data Nights to provide parents with student-testing information, academic benchmarks, and school accountability measures. "This level of transparency and accountability opens the door for the greatest opportunity for cooperative understanding between parents and educators of the student's strengths, needs, and opportunities for growth," she wrote.
Deirdre Pierce of Georgia successfully petitioned her local school board to fully renovate a high school building and enhance it with a career-technology wing and a first-class auditorium.
Janelle Sperry secured a $12,000 grant from the West Virginia legislature to build an outdoor science and nature center at her child's school.
Carlina Brown's high school PTA in Seattle represents 400 students from diverse backgrounds. "Outspoken speeches, winning of lawsuits, and publicity of petitions to remove principals are the type of work that has made us a challenger in conversations regarding education and the success of our students, particularly African-American students. Our motto: 'We are not your mother's PTA.'"
Sharon Meigh-Chang helps Portland, Ore. clothe 2,000 public school children each year via the PTA Clothing Store.
Mandy Patterson started a children's charity, Pajama Pals, which has collected and distributed nearly 75,000 books and new pajamas to underprivileged children in North Carolina.
Melissa Kicklighter of Florida was instrumental in launching the BUDs (Brothers, Uncles, Dads, etc) Club, which was created to increase male involvement.
To read full comments, ideas, and inspiration from each Champion of Change honored today, check out their blog posts on the White House website:
Ana Chapman, "Saying Yes to PTA Involvement"
Melissa Kicklighter, "Securing a Brighter Future for Our Nation's Most Precious Resource"
Calvin Endo, "Bringing the Change"
Sharon Whitworth, "Helping a Nation of Children"
Carlina Brown, "Cultivating a Wholesome Education"
Deirdre Pierce, "Bright Futures for All Children"
Mandy Patterson, "Giving to Those That Hardly Receive"
Sharon Meigh-Change: "Creating an Environment for Life-Long Learners Through PTA"