Mantua Elementary School students in Fairfax, Va., speak nearly 40 languages among them. To reach most of the parents, the Mantua PTA publishes its weekly newsletter in six: English, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, and Vietnamese.
When parents attend parent-education events, they can request a translation—and the PTA will find someone to do it from their community, for free. At the school’s open house, different tables are set up to welcome parents in their native language.
Promoting parent engagement in the melting pot that is Mantua has required a concerted effort on the part of the PTA to include families from many cultures. Going well beyond translation, the PTA invites parents to participate in school in ways that respect cultures and support students.
Now, those efforts have been recognized by the National PTA, which recently bestowed its top parent-engagement recognition on the Mantua PTA: the Phoebe Apperson Hearst-National PTA Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award. Mantua PTA will receive two all-expense paid trips to this year’s 116th Annual National PTA Convention in June, where it will receive $2,000.
Among other ways Mantua PTA pulls its community into the school:
- A welcome committee reaches out to new families, whether parents of incoming kindergarteners or those who relocated from different areas;
- A mentorship program pairs new parent volunteers in the school who are non-English speakers with a “sponsor parent” volunteer who speaks the same language, to make sure the newcomers are comfortable, understand their role and are understood;
- A Kids Care Club, sponsored by the PTA, focuses on community service projects like helping the elderly and collecting food for the hungry, and
- A multicultural parents group, the Community Building Network, invites parents to participate in school in ways they feel comfortable making the contribution.
To learn more about the Hearst awards, and the winners of the merit awards, read the PTA’s release.
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.