It’s August which means it’s back to school for traditional public school students. While you’re shopping for supplies and filling out endless forms, now’s also the time to start thinking about how you want to be involved in your child’s education as myriad organizations will be vying for your time and money.
Depending on your child’s age, options will vary, but there are some common ways to support students no matter their grade level. Following is the Chatham Education Foundation’s “Give 5 Each Year” list. The tasks aren’t hard, but you need to remember to do them every year.
No. 1 Join your school’s PTA/PTSA or Booster Club
In elementary school the best way to get involved is by joining the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). As a member, you help plan family and fundraising events (e.g. bingo or movie nights, raffle baskets, teacher appreciation week, restaurant nights) and decide where any money earned, such as from the PTA Thrift Shop (see No. 3 below), is allocated. Pollard and Chatham Grove, for example, provide each teacher with a classroom grant at the start of the year while Seaforth teachers need to apply for grants through a special funds request. Middle and high school PTAs or PTSAs (the “S” stands for students) typically include student council representatives who attend meetings and serve as liaisons. Annual membership costs for PTA/PTSAs run around $10.
Middle and high schools also have booster clubs, which work to raise money for athletics, band the arts and/or after-school programs. Pollard Middle School’s booster club solicits sponsorships through local businesses and organizes volunteers to sell concessions at athletic events. Funds raised help pay for items such as uniforms, transportation and instruments.
Instead of a booster club, Seaforth High School has Hawks Nation, which supports all school sports through spirit wear and concession sales and tiered memberships and sponsorships. The marching band has its own booster club.
For all of these organizations, it’s up to you how much time you want to commit. You can pay your annual dues and attend meetings when able, or you can become an officer and work with school administrators to make things happen.
No. 2 Renew your application to be a CCS Approved Volunteer
If you are interested in volunteering inside your child’s school or on a class field trip, then you need to apply for or renew your CCS Volunteer Application. This form can be found on the Chatham County Schools website at www.chatham.k12.nc.us. After a background check has been completed, you’ll be notified of your approval status, generally within two weeks.
No. 3 Donate, Shop or Volunteer at the PTA Thrift Shop
Chatham County Schools’ PTA/PTSAs make the bulk of their money through volunteering at the Chatham PTA Thrift Shop. In 2022, schools made between $20,000 and $60,000, depending on the number of volunteer hours accrued. If you donate to, shop at or volunteer at the PTA Thrift Shop, you’re helping your child’s school earn money. Most volunteer hours are earned at work sessions organized by each school’s PTA Thrift Shop representative. At work sessions, attendees straighten the store, hang clothes and sort donations. Each hour worked equals money for the school of your choice, and volunteers may also choose where to allocate their hours (i.e. to a teacher, club, team, etc.). Each PTA has a say in how funds are spent.
No. 4 Link your Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods Cards
Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods both have loyalty programs in which you can link your account to a school to earn money. When you use your linked Harris Teeter VIC card to purchase Harris Teeter brand items, the store’s Together in Education program donates a percentage of the purchase to your chosen school. Up to five schools can be linked to one account, and you can sign up at tie.harristeeter.com/together-in-education. Likewise, at Lowes Foods, you can link your Fresh Rewards card to a school (three schools max). Based on the amount spent on private brand products, your school will receive a cut. To enroll, go to rewards.lowesfoods.com. Cards at both stores must be relinked each year.
No. 5 Donate to CEF to support countywide initiatives
Finally, CEF would love your support, either financially or by helping us advocate for fully funded public schools in Chatham County. Gifts to CEF make a positive impact in all of our schools through our countywide initiatives such as our Books on Break program, which holds free book fairs at schools in low-income communities; Creative Teaching Grants; and support of AVID, a proven college readiness and academic success system. Contact CEF’s executive director, Jaime Detzi at email@example.com, to learn how you can help champion for Chatham County’s most important asset–our students.
This story was first published in Briar Chapel Magazine, August 2023.