Congratulations to our winner in the "What's Your PTA Story?" Contest
Christina will receive an embroidered PTA bag!

Christina Chappell, Eastern Region

My PTA story began in the 2008-2009 school year.  I was pregnant with my third child and my oldest daughter had just started kindergarten.  Whaat?!?! My baby at school all day long?  My first “job” was helping in the Santa shop.  I loved it!!  I continued to help when I could in her class and with activities.  My son was born that May and was show n tell the last week of school. 

The following year I was signing up for whatever I could volunteer for.  I even helped in my daughter’s class with a small reading group.  Her teacher did not mind me bringing an infant with me and her classmates loved seeing her baby brother.  The year was a typical one, volunteering with Santa shop, fun fair, snacks, health fair and fundraisers.  Then “the flyer” came home in April.  “Tuscarora PTA is looking for all officers for the upcoming year”. At the end of the school year, Tuscarora would be losing third grade to the intermediate school and all current officers either had rising 3rd or 4th graders.  “I’ll just go to the meeting and see what’s involved” I had no idea that when I left that meeting in April 2010 that my true PTA journey would begin.  Jokingly I said, “when my daughter leaves 2nd grade, my other daughter starts kindergarten and when she leaves 2nd grade, my son starts kindergarten. PTA President it is!! Unanimously everyone agreed and oh boy what did I get myself into?!?!

The first year all five of us sat in a meeting before school started thinking what do we do now? We were all new and had no clue what we were doing. Our principal helped a little and pretty much let us do what we wanted.  So we started a plan and things went pretty smoothly.  We signed parents up, collected dues, held events and fundraisers.  Listened to what the teachers and parents wanted.  We thought we were doing pretty well. Until……I saw a flyer in my mailbox.  It was bright pink and it had BCCPTA at the top.  What the?? BCCPTA?? I asked my Principal about what it was since there was a meeting scheduled. His response was, “oh you don’t have to worry about that.  It’s a council pta thing”.  I thought for a minute and decided I should probably check it out for myself.  So me and another officer decided to go and see what it was.  The response, “OMG Tuscarora is here!!!” was not what I was expecting!!!  Berkeley County Council PTA opened my eyes to so many things.  Met new people, exposed to new ideas, shared experiences and found out about the yearly convention.  Very cool!! Fast forward to Convention.  Me and another officer show up to Convention ready to learn new things and excited to be a part of the State PTA.  Until…..”hey, why is Tuscarora here? They haven’t paid dues all year.”   Oh for the love of cheese!! We have to pay those?!?!  Ha!! Thank goodness we had the checkbook with us.  Convention ended up being great! Had trainings, met new friends and left with valuable information to take back with us.  The year was ending on a good note, until……”hey, you haven’t filed your taxes.” What??  We have to do that TOO!!!  Sheesh!!  I’m going to be fired from a “job” that I volunteered for!!  I will never forget my very first year.  The ups, downs, laughs, tears, and what did I get myself intos.  But it opened a door that I never had imagined would lead me to where I am today.

The next few years I began doing more and more in PTA as I felt more comfortable within my school family and the community around me.  I volunteered to be the BCCPTA Clothing Room Chairperson which for the 4 years I did that was amazing.  I moved it from a dingy basement to a classroom portable and with the help from some amazing volunteers, transformed it into a boutique where families could come and get clothing in an organized and comfortable environment.  I loved being apart of that organization.  As a part of the clothing room I was responsible for delivering coats to students.  As the overall idea of a child needing a winter coat can be a sad one, doing this job brought me so much joy.  The look on a child’s face when you hand them a coat and they try it on and realize it’s theirs, is just priceless.  More often than not I would have a moment in my car to just cry after a delivery.  One of my most memorable deliveries was to a family who had 6 children.  The mom was the actual mother to only 2 of the students but had taken in the other 4; 2 of which were pregnant middle school girls.  Due to unforeseen circumstances they had to move and not only from their home but switch schools.  So after tracking them down and contacting mom I was able to deliver 4 of the coats to the new schools, but I delivered 2 coats to the hospital.  One of the girls had gone into early labor.  I couldn’t just let this child go home without a coat so talked to mom, said I’ll just meet you in the lobby and gave her the 2 coats.  She talked my ear off for almost an hour, but I didn’t care.  She was so appreciative of what I did, and she just needed someone to talk to. 

During my “career” at Tuscarora I organized a yearly grandparents breakfast, Santa Shop, Donuts for Dads, Muffins for Moms, Daddy/daughter dances and Mommy/Son dances.  Parent and family engagement is extremely important to me.  I wanted to make our school feel as if every person felt welcomed.  I made it a point to be available for questions or just a conversation.  Being involved in my children’s school allowed me to get to know so many of the teachers and other parents within the school.  I also became a Read-a-Loud reader in the classroom as well as a PASS volunteer.  I listened to parents praise the school and parents complain about the school I have wiped away tears from children that weren’t my own but would still do anything for.  I received hugs and countless pictures. I have always said I don’t have just 3 kids, I have 350+ kids that I look after.  There are countless conversations that I have had with parents over the past 10 years that will stick with me forever and will never forget. It hasn’t all been easy and oftentimes I have wanted to throw in the towel.  We went through 4 Principals in 5 years, which was a challenge in itself.  As I started my PTA journey, I also began going through a divorce. Going from being a stay at home mom living in a nice neighborhood to living in an apartment with not the best neighbors, working as much as I can when I could, stressing over how I was going to pay for this or that and being on state assistance.  I get it, I can relate to our parents. I’ve been there.  I’ve needed a winter coat and a clothing room voucher.  I’ve had to choose between gas money or food.  I don’t want any parent or child to ever feel like they are not worthy or welcome in any event or activity at school.   The PTA is a family and we work through obstacles as a team.

I was sometimes inside the building longer than my own home!  That’s when I decided to start subbing.  Might as well get paid for being in the building, right??  I once again fell in love with something that I never thought I’d be doing.  In the fall of 2016 I became a full-time Berkeley County Schools employee as a special education aide and in January 2018 I became an online student of WVU to finish school and obtain my Bachelor’s degree, so I can begin my teaching career.  I owe where I have ended up today to those ladies 10 years ago who sent out that flyer asking for PTA officers.  I am still at Tuscarora, not as the President of the PTA but this year as the Reflections Coordinator for our school.  I can share my many experiences in PTA in hopes that parents, grandparents and community members know how much it can change not only your life but the life of a child by being a part of the PTA.  The kids are what keep me going every year.  The things that I do every day that bring smiles to their faces is what matters most.  As Dr. Seuss said, “To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world!”