Getting involved beyond the PTA
School-related volunteering is one of the first ways many moms get involved in their communities. They are terrific! Schools could not function without them in many instances. But they are also just the start. You can engage in school-related volunteering through school councils, booster clubs, school service groups and educational foundations. Look beyond the PTA.
When you get out there in the community and start volunteering among the school community, you have the opportunity to do a lot of work that will do a lot of good. You'll meet new people and develop a greater understanding of how the school system works (and that can only help you navigate it more easily with your child). You'll also have a lot of fun while you are doing good.
Many schools have a school council -- a body that is a bridge between school staff, administration, parents and the community at large. They typically address goals for the school and can have input in things like anti-bullying curriculums or selecting a new assistant principal. Parent representatives are typically elected by the school community.
The time commitment for school councils will vary by the role of a committee in a particular district. They can be a great way to have an impact on the classroom environment in your child's school.
Booster clubs are like school special interest groups. You can be a part of a booster club for sports, music, visual arts or even science and math. Typically formed outside the purview of the schools, they are usually non-profits dedicated to promoting and supporting their pet cause through fundraising and specialized grants. If you have a special interest -- or your child has a special interest -- booster clubs may offer the opportunity to focus your community involvement efforts in ways that benefit your family directly.
School-associated service groups
Some schools have a strong tradition of service groups associated with the schools. American Field Service (AFS), for example, promotes international understanding while working with local schools. Similar groups may work to improve the lives of populations abroad by promoting fundraising within the school, by the students. These groups need parent supporters and advisors and are a great way to bridge your philanthropic interests with enriching school experiences.
With school systems strapped for cash, many school systems are looking to local educational foundations for support. Educational foundations are independent non-profits that fundraise for the benefit of the local school system. They may offer this support in the form of grants or materials and they may fund scholarships. Educational foundations tend to be tightly run organizations that require a longer-term commitment from members of the board or committees. Educational foundations may also create relationships with local business for sponsorships of school needs. Foundations as such are a great way to utilize your business skills and network!
Whatever path you choose, your involvement in the community enriches your life, your children's lives, and the lives of others. And it can be lots of fun.