Secondary: Parental Involvement Beyond Elementary

For many parents, the transition from elementary to middle school can be tense as they leave the comfort of their small school and PTO for a larger building with more students and seemingly less opportunities to be involved.

While it may seem as if there are less opportunities, in reality, they may just look different. As students get older, they start to identify interests. For some it may be band, for others sports. It may be robotics or esports. For others, it may be art or photography. Regardless of the interest, within the walls of every middle school and high school, there exist opportunity for parents to be involved and supportive.

“Be invested in what they do!” is the advice given by Mark Chapman, a parent who is passionate about his volunteer work for Elkhart Memorial’s marching band. You can find Chapman at every Elkhart Memorial band event, as the go-to guy for loading, unloading, and even pulling props and equipment behind a John Deere tractor onto the football field. Chapman and his wife have five years experience as “pit parents” for the Crimson Charger Command. Their daughter graduated in 2018 and their son is currently a sophomore at Elkhart Memorial. Being a “pit parent” means they have taken on the responsibility, along with many other volunteers, to move props on the field. The Chapmans have committed to being at every home football game, marching band invitational, contest, and even some practices.

Elkhart Community Schools is supported by hundreds of parents through booster clubs, including athletic boosters and band/orchestra boosters. These parents help in ways like the Chapmans with heavy lifting, while others may help in ways like event planning or fundraising. Some parents support students outside of an organized club, simply by providing a ride to a teammate, spreading the word to friends about how great a program is, and encouraging people to attend events.

Tanzie Nelson has been involved with the school district since her oldest started school, whether it was serving on a PTO when her children were younger, to now in Orchestra Boosters. Currently, she has a sophomore at Elkhart Central and a seventh grader at North Side. Nelson says her motivation to be involved came from wanting to help offer support to the teachers, “My current involvement with the Orchestra Boosters has allowed me to support what I consider to be an extremely important aspect of my son’s high school experience: music education.”

When asked how to stay involved with their children in secondary school, Chapman puts it simply: you just have to be there. He says he sees lots of children get dropped off, and that sometimes parents don’t show up to see the outcomes of the hard work their child has completed. Their own children have never objected to them helping out, but for the Chapmans, helping out wasn’t even an option – they are committed from start to finish. Chapman believes to fully experience and appreciate what your student has done, you need to be there for them. “The students all work together to present the best show they can. I have seen them encourage and support each other, it takes a lot of skill and physical stamina to march and play an instrument for a full 7-8 minute show.”

For Nelson, she loves that her oldest son plays the violin. “Supporting him is truly rewarding and something I really enjoy doing.”  Nelson’s youngest son plays the trombone and she is equally excited to see him join the marching band, where she plans to offer her support however it’s needed.

Nelson suggests parents keep their eyes open for opportunities to help through their child’s extracurricular activities. For Chapman, it is about finding something your child is passionate about; “sports, music, math, speech, drama, robotics, or any number of other activities, and then support them and encourage them to do their best!”

Whether it be a seasonal commitment or a one-time opportunity, there are always ways to support and become involved with your student and their school. Please contact your child’s school, teachers, or coaches to see how you can lend a hand to help in the success of Elkhart students.