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Neighborhood spotlight: PTA president plays active role at Penn-Kidder

Kelly Atkinson is proof that you can never be too busy to be involved in your child’s school.

She works two jobs. She raises her daughter Nilaya as a single parent. And yet she finds the time to serve as the president of the PTA at Penn-Kidder campus, a position she’s held for four years.

Atkinson is dedicated to PTA because she knows it’s important for parents to take an active role in the education of their children.

“I really think that as humans, if we say ‘this is important,’ we find the time. We’ll find the second, we’ll find the minute, we’ll find the hour to do something that helps in a small way,” Atkinson said.

Under her leadership, the Penn-Kidder PTA has been recognized at a state level. They have taken on new roles during the pandemic. At the same time, they maintain the core functions of the PTA - providing support for teachers and educational programs through fundraising.

Each year, the PTA raises thousands to help send students on field trips. They do it by selling baked goods, candy, pretzels and organize the annual book fair.

The funds help them to provide $7 per student toward the cost of trips to places like the Crayola Factory and the Lehigh Valley Zoo.

In 2019, the PTA organized a meet the candidates night during the election for school board. They plan to have another before this year’s elections.

“We were able to put together this place where community members, parents, teachers, administrators, paras, custodians can come together and meet the people that are going to be possibly making decisions that affect their livelihood as well as the experience of our kids at school,” Atkinson said.

During the pandemic, Atkinson and the PTA have turned their efforts outward to help families stuck at home.

In March, after schools went completely virtual, they decided to collect food for families, to help them provide food between the take-home meals provided by the school district. A community member made a large donation to support the program.

At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, families had a lot of questions about the new hybrid learning format. The PTA held virtual question-and-answer sessions with the school district, with Atkinson asking administrators questions provided by parents.

In her years with PTA, her dedication has caught the notice of teachers and administrators.

Health and physical education teacher Travis Andrews has gotten to know Atkinson as she dedicates long hours to planning events like “run for fun” and field day. He said her enthusiasm is inspiring to students and parents alike.

“Her commitment to volunteering inspires others to embark on their own mission to volunteer in the school and elsewhere in the community,” Andrews said.

Assistant Principal Sara Mass, who prior to becoming principal taught Atkinson’s daughter, said she is highly organized and goes above and beyond to make sure PTA supports families and students.

“Kelly is a caring, supportive person and has the best interest of the students/families of the Penn-Kidder Campus at the forefront of all she does for our school community,” Mass said.

As if her schedule was not busy enough, Atkinson has added a statewide PTA role to her list of responsibilities. But at least for now, she still plans to remain as the president of Penn-Kidder PTA.

One of her proudest accomplishments is increasing the number of parents who are involved with the group’s executive committee from four to more than a dozen. And she thinks the organization is in good hands going forward.

“They give so much time and so much effort to make sure this organization is successful, to make sure our kids are successful,” she said.

Kelly Atkinson is in her fourth year as president of the Penn-Kidder Campus PTA. CHRIS REBER/ TIMES NEWS
Kelly Atkinson is in her fourth year as president of the Penn-Kidder Campus PTA. CHRIS REBER/ TIMES NEWS