Parents Association creates initiatives to improve school

Megha Nelivigi and Bradley Bennett

The Parents Association (PA) is an organization composed of parent volunteers focused on building community and fundraising through events like the Book Fair and New Family Check Ins, Parents Association President Grace Peak said.

“The main priority of the Parents Association is to build community,” Peak said. “As a commuter school with over 1100 parents from the tri-state area, we need the PA to support the school, plan initiatives and events, and to engage and inform our large parent body.”

The PA plays a large role in the school community, Head of School m n Tom Kelly said, as it “is just like another division, with the exception that it works across all divisions and focuses on how best to mobilize the school’s parent body in support of the educational experience at HM.”

Apart from fostering community within the parent body, the Parents Association plays an active role in raising money for the school, said Peak. Their largest fundraising event is the HMPA All-School Benefit, which will take place this Friday at Cipriani, Peak said.

The main goal of the benefit is to raise money for the school and contribute to the financial aid fund, and the entire parent body is invited, she said. This year, more than 700 parents and alumni plan on attending, Second Vice President of the Parents Association Andrea Madaio said.

The PA is organized into a number of committees, some as a part of each school division and others that are all-school committees. Each division is “composed of parent volunteers from the nursery division all the way up to the Upper Division,” Peak said.

The school’s administration keeps close contact with the Parents Association, Kelly said. “At all levels, the Head’s office and each Division Head, including the Business and Development offices are invited in not only the decision making progress but the planning and implementation phases of PA activities and event,” he said in an email. Kelly hears from Peak on “almost a weekly basis,” but hears from PA officers from other divisions when needed as well, he said.

As soon as a student joins the HM community, their parents become automatically involved in the PA, Peak said, but parents can choose the level of involvement they would like to have.

“We encourage you to donate an hour of your time, or a week of your time, or as long as you possibly can,” Peak said. “We welcome any participation on any level.”

For PA representative Terry Gushner Laufer, her role as an 11th grade parent representative and the head of the book club is not extremely time consuming, she said. The book club is open to the entire school community, alumni included, and the group reads around five books each year, she said.

The book club is “a way for parents to get together, and obviously we discuss the book,  but it is also another way for parents to feel like they’re included and get to know other people in the parent body,” Gushner Laufer said.

Being a parent rep, she said, is “just another way to create inclusion within the community. We provide different opportunities for parents to connect and socialize, so that the parent body feels like they can reach out to someone and know someone in the grade and throughout the school.”

Some of the initiatives the Upper Division has include the running Book Fair and International Food Festival, organizing Parents in Action Meetings, UD concerts bake sales, helping with Homecoming, running an athletics committee, and overseeing grade representatives, Co-Chair of the Upper Division PA Cecile Caer said.

During the International Food Festival, “parents bring in a variety of foods from many different cultures,” Josh Underberg (9) said. “It is a very unique event.”

Some of the other initiatives the PA runs include the New Family Welcome Check-In, the Lower Division Teacher Appreciation Initiatives and separate initiatives within each division, Peak said.

During the Book Fair, the PA is charge of organizing books and other items as well as volunteering for the fair, Madaio said.

“Without the PA we wouldn’t have the book fair, which is such community event,” Middle & Upper Divisions Chair of the Library Department Caroline Bartels said. “We would not be able to have those three days and see all those people gathering together, buying books, and being a community.”

Parent volunteers organize books that are picked up into different genres, while others visit people’s homes to pick up books, Bartels said. Leading up to the fair, volunteers spend the entire day setting up, she said.

Another significant initiative is the New Family Welcome Check-In, Peak said. This year, the school hosted a welcome dinner for over 200 new families, she said.

“What we were really, really proud of is that the families that came in, walked away with a name and a phone number of another new family,” Peak said. “These parents are able to meet some of the current PA volunteers and are welcomed by some of the administrators.”

Within the Lower Division, there exists a Teacher Appreciation Committee, Peak said. This began with each lower division student bringing in an apple for their teacher, but the PA also organizes other initiatives including teacher breakfasts during parent-teacher conferences.

The PA also works to raise money for causes outside of the school community, Peak said. For instance, each division participating in raising money for natural disasters, Peak said. The nursery division was heavily involved; students created artwork that was then sold to the parent body to raise money for the victims, and items were collected and shipped to affected nations.