PTA came to me over a decade ago as the perfect way to be involved as my first child entered school, but little did I know that I would learn so much and it would become the platform from which I would have the opportunity to build such meaningful relationships, launch widespread initiatives and create such powerful results.
As a school based PTA leader, my focus was on caring for the students and faculty of our school by building a strong membership and community business partnerships and offering quality programs and services. The first step in accomplishing this was to build a strong team of dedicated board members who were willing to learn with me and get the job done. Through the efforts of this team of dedicated PTA leaders and generous volunteers, we were able to enhance our traditional school programs with increased family and community participation and offer innovative programs and activities each year. Partnering with our teachers to provide educational and fun family night activities and the addition of the BUDs (Brothers, Uncles, Dads, etc) Club, which was created to increase male involvement, were a few of many programs that we created and implemented with pride.
Over time, my involvement with PTA expanded to the County/District level committees, and I grew to appreciate and really understand the mission and purpose of our work. First steps at this level were to promote the PTA mission with improved publications then strong and accessible leadership training and parent education opportunities. As I looked beyond the walls of my own children's schools, it was easy to see the widespread the need for strong family and community engagement through our school district. As a County Council officer, I continued to connect with some of our most challenged schools and help them take steps in the right direction to empower their parents and help them understand how to make a difference for their children and be part of their school communities. The reality was that most parents did not know what they did not know, but they were ready and willing when asked. So, it was the perfect time to focus the work of the Duval County Council to get more helping hands involved to embrace the hearts of our students and community, and I was fortunate to lead this charge.
Most recently, as the Duval County Council President and a State Board member, our theme was simply "Helping Hands - Embracing Hearts - Taking Action." Leading such a dynamic group of people who were willing to devote the time necessary to build strong school based PTA leaders through training and parent education has been my privilege. From the everyday work in our schools and around our community through relationships with so many organizations coalitions and task forces to being awarded and entrusted to carry out the pivotal work of the National PTA Common Core State Standards Initiative and Grassroots Advocacy grant, the State and National award winning Superintendent's Leadership Academy for our high school students to learn how to be true advocates for themselves and others, and so much more; we have enhanced our community leadership capacity and are recognized as having an important voice for children's health, education and welfare.
PTA is one of the largest and oldest volunteer based child advocacy organizations in our country. We are passionate, persistent and powerful because we are fighting to protect and care for our nation's most precious resource. Our Founders were innovative and inspirational women and mothers who saw need and were willing to take risks to create change. With the support of my family, friends and so many others who have been part of this journey with me, I plan to continue my work as a PTA leader and advocate. Proudly, I will walk in the footsteps of my predecessors and continue to be part of the change necessary to secure a bright future for all children!
Melissa Kicklighter has been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for her work in the PTA.