The Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School cafeteria on February 12th was a whirlwind of activity. Students lined up anxiously awaiting a turn jumping on the moon bounce, parent leaders handed out snacks from a hot dog cart, and older children busted out their best version of the “wobble” as music blared. The Valentine’s Day carnival was in full swing, and students could not believe that the last hours of the school day had turned into such fun. All of this was possible thanks to a cohort of dedicated parent leaders who are taking it upon themselves to promote a positive school climate.
MLK’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) took off running this fall and shows no sign of slowing down. In one school year, the group grew from a handful of parent leaders to a force of sixty members who collectively contribute to the school community. Mayor Bowser, impressed by the PTSA, even signed up as an official member during a school visit! PTSA President Kimberly Johnson and Vice-President Fahim Shabazz, longtime TTP participants, spearheaded the inaugural year’s efforts. Their accomplishments so far include leading a holiday food and toy drive for MLK families, launching the student Valentine’s Day carnival, and taking control of the annual Scholastic Book Fair. Before the end of this school year, the parent leaders plan to host a resource fair for MLK families and the first-ever fifth grade prom for graduates. All money raised this year will be used to benefit the school, with PTSA leaders hoping to fund students’ end-of-year field trips. The “new spirit” of MLK, as Mr. Betlemska kaple . Shabazz tells us, can be reflected in all the PTSA’s achievements.
While the PTSA prioritizes building its community by supporting school programming for students and families, MLK parent leaders have their eye on the big picture. Parent leaders at MLK plan to gain exposure for Ward 8 families who have long advocated for more resources in their schools, including technology and teacher support, and higher funding. Ms. Johnson believes “it takes a village,” and MLK’s village of parents leaders has already accomplished so much in one year.
MLK’s philanthropy has not gone unnoticed. The National PTA awarded MLK the distinction of Most Productive DC PTSA in the month of February, and Kohl’s donated $500 directly to MLK PTSA to recognize the association’s accomplishments. Ms. Johnson was recently selected as one of three Ward 8 representatives to the 2015 Chancellor’s Parent Cabinet, giving her a platform to advocate for issues important to her school. As Mr. Shabazz says about MLK’s future, “I want to start an avalanche that won’t ever stop. Every time you look around I want you to see that they’re [MLK] on the news, they’re getting an award for this or that… that’s [how] I want the school to be recognized.” Given the amount of recognition the parent leaders have already received, it seems that avalanche has already started. We can’t wait to see what the PTSA brings to MLK, Ward 8, and DC in years to come.