HMPA connects families with events and alliance groups

HMPA+connects+families+with+events+and+alliance+groups

Hannah Katzke, Staff Writer

“The HMPA always embraces people who want to roll up their sleeves and pitch in,” Executive Committee Chair of the “Friends of the Arts” Committee Sara Zion P‘22 ‘24 wrote. The Horace Mann School Parents Association (HMPA), a group of parents and guardians, works to facilitate strong relationships between the school and the parent body and help parents feel connected with the school community, President of the HMPA Sally Zhang P ‘26 said.

“The HMPA does a wonderful job of connecting families to one another and of cultivating a sense of oneness within the family community as a whole,” Zion wrote. The primary impact of the HMPA is their ability to connect the schools’ families, who come from over 150 zip codes, she said.

The HMPA is composed of an Executive Board, four Divisional Boards — Upper Division (UD), Middle Division (MD), Lower Division (LD), and Nursery Division (ND) — and other parent-run committees. Each of these committees are made up of parents and guardians of students at the school, Zhang said.

HMPA members have the opportunity to participate and work directly with the school. “Every parent of an HM student is officially a member of the HM Parents Association; everyone has the opportunity to get involved in any way they would like, and we welcome the involvement of people with all different opinions, backgrounds, and experiences,” Co-Chair of the UDPA Marisa Rosenthal P‘21 ‘24 wrote.

During the school year, the HMPA only gets together as an entire group a few times, but they meet and talk frequently in their committees, Zion wrote.

The HMPA helps host and plan several events throughout the year, including the New Family Welcome gatherings, the school’s Annual Benefit, the International Food Festival, and the Book Fair.

To plan these events, the HMPA works with the appropriate administrator to set dates for the events, Rosenthal wrote. For example, for an event like the Book Fair, a designated committee works closely with UD Library Department Chair Caroline Bartels to plan. The co-chairs of the committee then take over planning with the help of committee volunteers and Divisional officers, Rosenthal wrote.

Zhang loves talking with parents who are interested in joining the HMPA, volunteering for events like Picture Day or the Book Fair, or suggesting ways to improve the PA’s work. “When someone wants to reach out, it means they care,” she said.

As the HMPA President, Zhang works closely with Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, who reviews and approves the PA’s initiatives and projects, she said. “HMPA is also extremely grateful for the strong support we have been receiving from the Division Heads, Mrs. Arroyo, Mrs. Neuwirth, Mr. Khan, and Dr. Levenstein,” Zhang said.

Kelly works with the HMPA to coordinate and plan events like Homecoming, school opening, outfitting for the school’s merchandise, and the Benefit, he wrote. “HM’s PA is an integral part of a family’s journey through HM; we wouldn’t be HM today without our PA.”

Zhang also now serves as a member of the Board of Trustees, she said. “It is amazing to see the huge collection of the talented and experienced parents and other volunteers who deeply love the school to serve on the Board.”

As MD Co-Chair, Lindsay Taylor, ‘96 P‘24 ‘26 ‘29 works with the MD team and Head of the MD Javaid Khan to plan and coordinate community-building events for MD parents like the International Food Festival, she wrote. The committee talks to the administration about changes they want to see in the MD events, then brainstorms new ideas for the year. Taylor works with other parent volunteers, along with school support, to execute the committee’s, she wrote.

Taylor joined the HMPA because she wanted to support the school, she wrote. “It is absolutely the best way to get to know other parents, and I have made some of my best friends by volunteering.” 

Rosenthal works with the UD administration to coordinate and schedule Conversations with Dr. Levenstein, which are Head of Upper Division Dr. Jessica Levenstein’s talks with parents to discuss topics that impact UD students, like the curriculum and support systems, she wrote.

Rosenthal and the PA Divisional officers also ensure that information on the UD’s upcoming events is accurately shared with the parent body, while building a community among the UD parents.

Executive Secretary Tyana Kurtz P‘23 ‘26 and Executive Assistant Secretary Jackie Friedman-Brogadir P‘34 function as the PA’s communication team — which also includes two web managers — sending out eBlasts and maintaining the HMPA section of the parent portal on the school’s website. Every other Sunday, Kurtz and Friedman-Brogadir compile information on all of the school’s upcoming events in an eBlast sent to the entire parent body, Kurtz said. “We make sure that from a communications standpoint, everybody knows what’s going on, when it’s going on, and how they can engage and participate.”

Besides the Executive and Divisional Boards, there are numerous parent-run committees on the HMPA. They include several Alliance Groups created for parents and families, such as the Black Parents Union, Chinese Family Network (CFN), Hispanic/Latino Family Network, HM Pride, HM South Asian Families, the Korean Parents League, and the Cross-Cultural Alliance (CCA).

The CCA is for parents who do not readily identify with an already established alliance group, Executive Committee Co-Chair of the CCA Sheri Madison-Kwarteng P‘27 said. The committee welcomes all and focuses on topics like mindfulness, religion, and socioeconomics, she said. They partner with the school’s faculty and the National Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) Project to develop content and lead parent SEED sessions. Madison-Kwarteng and Executive Committee Co-Chair of the CCA Cathy Trentalancia P‘23 hosted four SEED sessions with the CCA last school year. 

The CFN’s mission is to bring together the school’s Chinese parents to promote culture, language, and heritage diversity in the school’s community, Co-Chair of the CFN and the MD New Family Welcome Committee Mandy Sun P‘23 ‘27 wrote. “It’s a great way for HM parents to celebrate their own culture and learn about different cultures, as HM is a very diverse community.”

Through the CFN, Sun can connect with Chinese families at the school at events held during the year, she wrote. In January, the CFN will host a Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration where families are invited to wear festive cultural attire, enjoy students’ performances, and mingle online with friends and families, Sun wrote.

Last school year, for the online International Food Festival, the UD PA and MD PA created a cookbook for parents to submit recipes or videos of them cooking dishes from their family’s culture, Rosenthal wrote. She hopes the event will be on campus this year and the collective cookbook will continue. 

While online, the HMPA also hosted grade-wide cocktail parties, Rosenthal wrote. Last year, with the help of the PA’s grade representatives who plan the grade-wide cocktail parties and are involved in the New Family Welcome events, the HMPA invited creative entertainment like magicians and a mixology demonstration. Recently, Kelly released COVID-19 parameters for the grade-wide cocktail parties if the grade representative wants to hold them in-person, Rosenthal wrote.  

This year, the HMPA restored HM Has a Heart (HMHaH), a parent-run support group for the school’s parents and faculty. The primary goal of HMHaH is to assist anyone in the school’s community going through a difficult time in their life, Zhang said. If one of the school’s families, faculty, or staff is grieving over the loss of a loved one, the network of over 200 opt-in parents will support the family by supplying them with meals to their home.

When a parent comes to the HMPA with a question or concern, the HMPA does their best to share the opinion with the school’s administration, but they also suggest that the parents speak to the administration directly, Rosenthal wrote. 

When Zion was a new parent at the school, working on the HMPA allowed her to feel like she was a  part of the school’s community, she wrote. Zion volunteered at events like the Horace Mann Theater Company performances because she loves to see the students’ shows and meet teachers, her fellow HMPA members, and their children. “Taking on a big responsibility in an unfamiliar place allowed me to quickly find my bearings and understand how HM works.”

Rosenthal’s favorite part of being on the HMPA is getting to know parents with whom she may not have crossed paths with otherwise, she wrote. “I have met such incredible people who have inspired me, made me laugh, and have been great teammates and friends over the years.”

As someone who has volunteered extensively for the HMPA, Zion wrote that the parents on the HMPA are the ones who are willing and able to take time out of their days to roll up their sleeves and get work done for their kids’ school community, she wrote. “HMPA volunteers are all united by the genuine intention to make HM a better place for our kids and for the families who come after us.”