Throughout the school year and beyond, Poway High School students, teachers, and staff benefit from the dedicated efforts of two organizations. The Poway High School Parent Teacher Student Association, currently led by President Cynthia Iliff-Wright, fulfills the mission of the California State PTA while tailoring services and events to Poway’s unique needs and opportunities. The Poway High Foundation, under the direction of Chairperson Steven A. Stone, unites parents, alumni, and community members to support the Titans. We spoke with Cynthia and Steven to learn more.
Q&A with Poway High School PTSA President Cynthia Iliff-Wright
What is the history and motivation behind the Poway High School PTSA?
The Poway High School PTSA is an organizational unit of the California State PTA. Although the PHS PTSA must follow the rules and regulations of the California State PTA, we are self-governing and can decide how best to meet the needs of our school and local community. This means that in addition to supporting and implementing many of the State PTA Programs, such as Red Ribbon Week and Reflections Art Program, we can decide and choose our own programs for our own school.
How has the PTSA evolved over the years?
The PHS PTSA has been focusing on our core programs, including providing appreciation events for the teachers and staff such as luncheons; supporting school programs that help students, like Student Services and the library; providing outreach to parents to help them stay involved in their children’s school life, like the Principal’s Forum and our Association Meetings; and organizing events that enrich our student’s school experience such as Grad Nite and Recognition Night.
What is the overall mission of the PTSA?
We follow the California State PTA mission, which is to “positively impact the lives of all children and families.”
How do you go about following that mission?
Each year the PTSA identifies goals and programs that we will focus on for that year. Often, we continue programs that are successful and have someone who is willing to run them. At times we also have to streamline or eliminate programs that are no longer needed or viable, and we are always looking to support new programs that further our goals. This year our goals were: increase membership, including teacher membership; identify and foster new PTSA leaders; and increase communication between the school, home, and community, including increased use of the website, social media, and other methods. I think we are doing great on the first and third goals, but we could use help on the second goal. We are actively recruiting new leaders!
We continue to support many programs that positively impact the lives of students and families by:
• Providing a subscription to the Junior Library Guild for the school library
• Sponsoring some of the expenses of the Titan Ambassadors
• Providing funding to the Student Services Department
• Sponsoring a reception for the annual Eye on Art show of student art and media arts
• Organizing our school community to participate in the Adopt A Family Program
• Sponsoring the Principal’s Coffee three times a year as an opportunity for the parents to connect directly with the school and learn about current trends in education important to our students.
And now we are beginning to get busy on the most volunteer and capital intensive program we sponsor, which is the Grad Nite for our seniors. But Grad Nite doesn’t just benefit our seniors. It is truly a community service to provide a safe, alcohol-free, all-night party for our seniors to be together one last time on campus. We continue to host our Grad Nite on the school campus, transforming school into a charming, theme-based venue complete with food, games, prizes, and all-night entertainment. This requires a significant number of volunteers and donations of money and prizes from students, parents, and the community. We are very proud of this gift that we can give to our seniors and community. The adults in our community can tour the venue in advance of the event, so look for the announcement!
PTSA At-A-Glance | Poway High School PTSA
Name: Poway High School Unit of the California State Parent Teacher Student Association
President: Cynthia Iliff-Wright
Facebook: Poway High School PTSA
Why is it important for schools to have PTSAs?
The schools really appreciate the PTA not only for the programs and funds it provides, but to have that conduit to the pulse of the parents. It is also a great way to meet other involved parents when you are new at a school. Before I joined PTA, I had no idea about all of the money and volunteers required for the things we take for granted at schools, like newsletters, art programs, family nights, Grad Nite, books for the library, and showing appreciation for the teachers and staff, to name just a few.
How did you get involved with the PTSA, and what is your current role?
A great leader and now great friend, Sabrina Butler, asked me to become involved when my son was in elementary school. I started with a small position and it just grew from there. It was a great way to meet other parents and to get to know the teachers on campus. I wanted to show my son that I cared about his school experience and that it is important to give back. The people I met in those early days of PTA are still my best friends today.
PTSA President At-A-Glance | Cynthia Iliff-Wright
Name: Cynthia Iliff-Wright
Education: B.A. Development Studies, UC Berkeley; J.D. UC Hastings College of Law
Family: Husband – Dan Wright; step-daughters Leslie (26) and Alex (24); son Lucas (17)
Interests: Hosting AFS students and volunteering with AFS Intercultural Programs – currently hosting Jordi Apriantono from Indonesia and Iria Balseiro from Spain; traveling; hiking; hanging out with my family; beading
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role with the PTSA?
The most rewarding part is all the “thank yous” I receive from teachers and administrators when I am on campus. Sometimes they are thanking me for something that another member of my team handled, so I always try to pass on to my team how much they are appreciated. There are many people behind the scenes who stay up at night and cook a pot of chili to drop off on their way to work, or shop for Adopt A Family to help out anonymously, and it’s really rewarding to know that we have a lot of support even when people can’t come to campus or attend meetings. I hope that they all know how much their contribution is appreciated.
The most challenging part is finding people who are able to be in charge of a program or project. In high school, students start to gravitate to specific interests and organizations, such as band, or a sport, or drama, and the parent support follows their student’s interests, as it should. This can leave parents and volunteers with less time to dedicate to school-wide programs like PTSA.
We also are having a hard time raising funds to support our programs and finding fundraisers that are unique and do not compete with the fundraising that other groups on campus are already doing. We’re very grateful to people who join PTSA at registration and make an additional direct donation above the membership cost. The membership dollars are shared with the state PTA for their advocacy and leadership activities, and we only keep a portion. So receiving a direct donation at registration from parents is really the main way we survive at the high school level. We have a few fundraisers per year, such as the SAT Bootcamps and the Shred-a-Thons, but there is more competition in this area. Some for-profit companies set up e-waste and shredding events, making it hard for the school fundraisers to compete.
What is most exciting about being a part of the PTSA?
For me, I like being “in the know” about what is happening at the school and the future plans for keeping our school great. There are always rumors about things, but if you really want to know what is going on at the school level, join PTSA and come to the meetings. We receive a report from the administration each meeting and it is very exciting to learn about the great things happening at our school.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the other key players in the PTSA?
Everyone on the team is a key player. We have financial and compliance teams who help raise money, make sure we keep good records, and follow best practices in the stewardship of the funds that have been entrusted to us. That would be our Treasurer Melissa Martinez, Auditor Carolyn Decker, Secretary Jocelyn Lozier, Parliamentarian Carolyn Beckwith, Membership Chair Kerry Porter-Sotelo, and our Programs Chair Hilda Chaiday.
Our volunteer motivation team helps to organize our volunteers so they can make a contribution that is meaningful to them and helpful to our goals. This includes Volunteer Coordinator Trina Brown and Historian Bek Johnson, both of whom are always there to lend a hand at almost every event!
Then there are the committee chairs who implement our programs. The appreciation team includes Hospitality Co-Chairs Noreen Arnold, Dee Dee Beason, and Kathy Schenk who feed almost 200 teachers and staff many times per year! The community and parent outreach teams, including Adopt A Family Chair Danielle Spartz and Principal’s Forum Chair Rhonda Petrosky. Our student enrichment teams head up programs that directly involve students. This includes Grad Nite Chair Sabrina Butler, Recognition Night Chairs Trina Brown and Bek Johnson, and Scholarships Chair Kim Rohr.
Can you highlight any upcoming significant events?
The next big event is to identify leaders for next year. Many of our current leaders have their last child graduating this year so we really need some new leaders to step up.
Does the PTSA hold fundraisers throughout the year?
We have shredding events three times per year, with the last one in April or May. We ask for a $5 donation per box. Our most critical need right now is for monetary donations to underwrite Grad Nite, as well as donations of gift cards and items to use as prizes. We want every student to receive a prize at Grad Nite. The students earn tickets playing games and use them to enter a drawing for the prizes. Many local businesses and stores donate these prizes and that helps keep the cost of Grad Nite tickets down for the students and provide scholarships for students who can’t afford to participate in Grad Nite. We also offer juniors the opportunity to earn their Grad Nite ticket for next year by helping break down and clean up the day after Grad Nite.
If someone wants to help the cause, how can they be a part of the PTSA?
Joining, donating, and volunteering are the main ways to be a part of PTSA. But taking on a leadership position is the next level to contributing and is even more rewarding.
What are you looking forward to the most in regards to this upcoming year?
I am proud that we are once again having our Grad Nite event on campus. It keeps our students close to home and allows them to spend a last night at school with friends. It also allows the junior students and many parents to be involved in this gift we give to our graduating seniors.
How can people go about finding out more information about the PTSA?
Visit our website at www.powayptsa.org or like us on Facebook. Also, the school marquee and electronic Titan Times newsletter always list our events and meetings.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
PTA is a great way to stay involved in your children’s school life, get to know the teachers and administrators at school, gain valuable leadership skills, and make great friends. Get involved today!
Q&A with Poway High Foundation Chairperson Steven A. Stone
What is the history and motivation behind the Poway High School Foundation?
The Poway High Foundation was formed in 1998 to provide financial support for programs, which promise significant contributions to the education of students at Poway High School. The Foundation roots started with such local notables as Don Higginson, Linda Vanderveen, and Ron Garrett, who was a teacher at the time and is now the Poway High principal.
How has the Foundation evolved over the years?
Like most local school foundations, we started as a group of parents that wanted more technology such as computer labs available for students. Since then, we have become the primary fundraising organization for Poway High and our financial support now includes funding a variety of programs and enhancements that give our students an environment to thrive: full-time Student Services program, academic field trips, software used in the library and classroom, new technologies for multimedia classes, teacher professional development, and managing donor restricted gifts for specific programs and school improvements.
What is the overall mission of the Foundation?
The mission of the Poway High Foundation is to advance the ideals of the Poway High community through active involvement of students, staff, parents, alumni, and friends. By inspiring and nurturing a culture of philanthropy, the Foundation serves as the school’s primary fundraising organization. It facilitates raising, managing, and allocating resources to support academic and co-curricular school programs, teaching innovation, athletics, and student life initiatives.
How do you go about following that mission?
We are actively growing our support base by engaging our parents, alumni, and community. A few years ago we created the Poway High Alumni Association to connect alumni with Poway High and with each other; Titan Hall of Fame to recognize and honor our alumni who have noteworthy life accomplishments; and Titan Museum to recognize our school’s heritage.
The Foundation also conducts events open to the broader public such as the Three Irish Tenors and Home at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts to raise community awareness and funds for programs. Additionally, some of our committed parents host an event called Heart to Hands, which fundraises for Student Services. The Foundation makes it very simple for parents to give through one-time gifts, annual pledges, or easy monthly donations through their financial institutions.
Foundation At-A-Glance | Poway High Foundation
Name: Poway High Foundation
Chair: Steven Stone
Phone: 858-748-0245 (PHS office)
Why is it important for schools to have Foundations?
Foundations help to keep the funding for programs constant when school budgets are tight and help schools expand programs when times are better. The Alumni Association helps keep Poway High graduates engaged with each other and aware of the accomplishments and needs of the school.
How did you get involved with the Foundation, and what is your current role?
Steven Stone: When my kids started elementary school back in 2001, I wanted to get involved at the school level as a volunteer. I did not want to be a room parent, and having a background in finance, I stepped in as treasurer of the elementary school foundation. As chairperson and a Poway High alumnus, I am able to contribute a variety of skills, community connections, and experiences to the Foundation.
Foundation Chairperson At-A-Glance Steven A. Stone
Name: Steven A. Stone
Education: Poway High School (‘80); B.S. Finance at SDSU (‘85)
Family: Wife – Chrissy Stone; children – Heather (20) and Chris (19)
Hobbies and Interests: Snow skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, dinner and conversation with friends
Shawna Fallon: With three kids going to Poway High, one now a senior and my youngest a freshman, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of our students and create better synergy and engagement with the parents as well. As vice-chair, I bring expertise from my career at the Sharp HealthCare Foundation to this board to enhance our fundraising efforts.
Scott Davis: I attended a high school with strong programs that added greatly to the personal development of me and my friends. I want the Poway High experience to be just as fulfilling for my son and the other students. It seems like a good way to give back to the community and help make Poway a great place to live and raise a family.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of your role with the Foundation?
Meeting great people working with the Foundation. Seeing the results of our efforts and the generosity of the parents in items that are bought for the classroom and programs such as peer counseling that we help to support. It is sometimes a challenge to keep it fresh. Whether we are putting on a community event or fundraising, we want to make sure that our approach is new and interesting rather than overdone and tired.
What is most exciting about being a part of the Foundation?
Being able to quickly get funding to a need and see the impact on many, many students. You see results. You see items purchased for the classroom. You see programs that might not have been able to exist without the help of our donors.
Can you highlight any upcoming significant dates?
We are currently working on a Titan 5K Run/Race as an annual community event that we can make available to campus groups for their fundraising.
Does the Foundation hold fundraisers throughout the year?
Each year we like to keep things fresh with new, creative ways to fundraise, like presenting the Three Irish Tenors just before St. Patrick’s Day. This year, plans include the Titan 5K Run/Race, the Hearts to Hands salon event in February, and possibly another concert at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts.
How can the community help to contribute to the work that the Foundation does?
We accept personal donations, corporate donations, and employer matching donations. Donors can make their gift through our website or by check. Since we are a 501(c)(3) public charity, donations may be tax deductible. Donors may make their gift to our core funds or a specific program.
Parents Fund: Provides support for academic and co-curricular programs as prioritized by the Foundation board and the administration. This funding includes instructional technology and supplies, academic field trips, materials, and supplies to support programs, and counseling services.
Principal’s Vision Fund: Supports emerging needs and priorities identified by school leadership.
Alumni Fund: Provides support for programs and initiatives of the Alumni Association such as the Titan Museum and scholarships for college or trade school bound seniors.
Student Services Counseling Program: Designated donations that provide students with education programs on drug and alcohol abuse and intervention, individual, and group counseling in times of crisis and emergency support.
Memorial & Tribute Gifts: A memorial or tribute gift is a special way to honor someone in your life, celebrate a birth, or remember a loved one who is no longer with you while also helping support the Poway High School community.
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If someone wants to help the cause, how can they be a part of the Foundation?
Our board is a diverse group and includes the principal, a teacher representative, parents, community members, and alumni who collectively decide how to allocate our funding. We meet once a month in the evenings. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
What are your long-term and short-term goals for the Foundation?
Our long-term goal is to build relationships with our community members, alumni, and parents to ensure Poway High has the financial support to continue its tradition of excellence – a tradition that brings a value to the community beyond the campus walls.
What are you looking forward to the most in regard to this upcoming year?
We are always looking forward to engaging more parents to become involved as philanthropic partners and making a difference for our students.
How can people go about finding out more information about the Foundation, important dates, and more?
Info about what we support, how to donate, our fundraising events, and how to join our board is on our website at www.powayhighfoundation.org.
Steven Stone, Chair
Shawna Fallon, Vice Chair
Scott Davis, Treasurer
Kim Rohr, Secretary
Anita Atkinson, Financial Secretary
Larry Ott, Alumni President
Jill Johnson, Parent Member
Rese Farrish, Parent Member
Wendy Hummel, Community Member
Ron Garrett, Principal
Peter McKee, Vice Principal
Jacquelyn Whitaker, Teacher