Using Your Voice to Help Provide Access for All

Amy Kobos – Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

Did you know that 1 in 4 children in North Carolina are at risk for hunger, and that nearly 30% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty?

We can easily assume people come from the same place as us, and we even get wrapped up in our own bubble thinking everyone has similar advantages, but in reality we know this isn’t true. Many American children and families struggle. Don’t assume every student has the privilege to have college freely financed or have parents who can help with homework. Many children don’t even have the privilege to eat a healthy meal, have a safe place outside to exercise, or have a family member they can count on.

The opportunity to access health and healthy living across different populations and how various social determinants can impact this is what is called HEALTH EQUITY.

Examples of health inequity are:

  • Not having access to grocery stores that offer nutritious food. These neighborhoods are typically saturated with nearby convenient stores.
  • Inability to receive mortgage loans based on the zip code you reside. Data show that African-American populations are the most affected.
  • Not having access to safe places to exercise. Even if there is a park nearby, often it is an area where kids cannot go alone.
  • Not being able to receive adequate life skills education or school guidance in the home environment because of absence of parental figures/other support. Hispanic and African-American communities are at the highest risk, but is not limited to these populations.
  • Possessing a higher rate of chronic disease, low birth weight, mental illness, including suicidality based on sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and gender norms.

Health inequity negatively impacts child development. If a child does not have access, this will likely adversely affect his/her health in the future.

According to the World Health Organization, health inequities are “systematic, socially produced (and therefore modifiable) and unfair.” This can be bad, and this can be good; the good being that you have the power to improve it.


Social determinants affect health outcomes. The six major categories are:

  1. Economic stability: employment, medical bills, debt, expenses, etc.
  2. Neighborhood and physical environment: housing, transportation, walkability, playgrounds, etc.
  3. Education: literacy, language, early childhood education, etc.
  4. Food: hunger, access to healthy options, etc.
  5. Community and social context: social integration, racism, discrimination, social support systems, etc.
  6. The healthcare system.

You might think that we live in a very equally opportunistic country, but I can assure you this is false. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation provides us with a more in depth explanation of how this might be. But, YOU CAN help improve this as an NCPTA member by providing access and resources your students might not be able to get at home. Assume all children are at risk. Focus on a few of these social determinants in your school to improve health equity.


  • Advocate for school lunches to be highly nutritious (whole foods vs. processed foods).
  • For the students receiving free lunches, connect with community partners, like Backpack Buddies and Mobile Meals to make sure students are receiving nutritious meals on the weekends and in the summers. Click here for additional information and programs which can assist students in North Carolina.
  • During fundraising or other school events/celebrations, ditch the pizza and ice cream. Instead, try celebrating with different ethnic themed cuisines and healthy ingredients (this also celebrates cultural diversity). Examples could be taco buffets, Greek salads, Indian curry, or Italian spaghetti with zucchini spirals for pasta. Ingredients could be donated and sponsored by local restaurants/grocers.
  • Provide education on how to create healthy meals on a small budget and/or without parental guidance.
  • Create and maintain a school community garden. This would assure students healthy food they could take home and cook. Buncombe County schools partner with FEAST (Fresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable, and Tasty) who incorporates classroom time dedicated to learning how to grow and cook your own food.


  • Connect with organizations, like Big Brothers Big Sisters or other student mentoring organizations, to offer support which hones in on developmental assets and/or assisting in helping prepare students who need an extra hand with homework.
  • Pair up every student with either a counselor/volunteer/teacher’s assistant/parent, etc. to check in throughout the semester to make sure students are able to get forms filled out, attain college prep and/or career literacy, able to meet registration deadlines (like driver’s education), ability to pay, being heard about any at-home obstacles students may be facing that may inhibit access to healthy living/learning opportunities. This can also act as assessment that could provide data to help receive funding for additional resources for students. We cannot assume every child has someone they can count on at home.
  • Require classes which prepare students for real life that emphasizes on professionalism and taking the initiative; for example, public speaking and career prep.


  • Require physical education classes every semester until graduation.
  • Incorporate physical activity in classroom learning.
  • Advocate for open use agreements allowing school facilities to be used by the community during non-school hours.
  • Advocate for secure, safe parks/green spaces to be built in lower-income/rural/urban neighborhoods.

Change isn’t going to happen globally or nationally overnight, but know that change will happen more rapidly and effectively if implemented on a local scale. This means you can be successful. Partner with community organizations and resources, make your team grow, be the role models, and set the example of how society can improve the future for our children and country. Strive to create access for all.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Amy Kobos – Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

Music is a universal language, and at the same time, unique to every group of people. You could be Haitian, Alaskan, African-American, Japanese, Eastern-European, or Middle-Eastern creating the music—or appreciating the music. Music is one way we can effectively communicate who we are as an individual or as a culture. It takes dedicated work and practice to connect and celebrate our diversity, and it is inevitable there will always be differences that challenge unity. An inclusive PTA that values diversity contributes to a healthy school climate for children. But how can we make it happen?

There are two subtle (and not-so-subtle) challenges to honoring and celebrating diversity: stereotyping and racism. According to Simple Psychology, stereotyping has a purpose: it helps us react rapidly to situations that have happened before. The disadvantage is when we tend to ignore the differences between individuals; therefore, we make false generalizations and assumptions. Stereotyping makes it “easy” to characterize a person or group, typically in a negative context from what one was led to believe. In music, we concentrate on and appreciate the individuality of the artist or band and we need to challenge ourselves to do the same in human-to-human interaction on an everyday basis.

Racism is the discrimination or prejudice based on race and is the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others, and often goes hand in hand with stereotyping. While racism has improved in the past 100 years, it’s still a widespread problem. There are three levels of racism: institutionalized, personally mediated racism (including microaggressions), and internalized racism.

Try one of these activities at your school to explore and celebrate your diversity:

Activity 1: Discussion.
Have a conversation about cultural diversity with your students. Ask them where they think they are as a society and why? What obstacles are they currently observing in society? Do they have a personal story to share? What needs to be changed? How are they personally going to help contribute in celebrating cultural diversity on a day-to-day basis?

Activity 2: Identity arts project.  
To emphasize the importance of cultural appreciation, mutual respect, and human connection amongst each other in the classroom, have the students prepare and present an artistic project that demonstrates their background and identity, their challenges, and where they are in the process. The project could be creative writing, visual arts, music, or more!

Activity 3: Narrative.
Challenge students to write descriptively about a time that they experienced stereotyping or racism. Describe the circumstances and how you felt. What did you do? In retrospect, is there anything you would do differently?

Activity 4: Cultural Nights.
Host a single event or multiple nights for the different groups that make your school special and unique. Music, dance, and foods can all be used as an opportunity to share your culture with other students and families, and provide an opportunity for you to learn from other families in your school. These can include a PTA meeting or academic information for parents!

Keep in mind that diversity should not be a reason to label people or cultures. Stereotyping and racism prevent people and/or cultures from the full potential of contributing to society in a positive way. This suppression stifles our communities’ ability to grow and evolve. Embracing diversity opens up a world full of possibility.” – Julie Palmer, Health Coach for RivalHealth

I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” Booker T. Washington.

Debate vs. Discussion: Strategies for Healthier Conversations

Amy Kobos – Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

We’re passionate about our beliefs and what we think is right or wrong.  We want to make our points clear and strong to people like our partners, co-workers, school board, and politicians. But, oftentimes, these conversations get heated. Debates aren’t always unhealthy.  Debating has purpose. It teaches individuals how to feel confident and be able to defend their ground. Debating provides us with the necessary tools to cultivate a sense of confidence.  And, we need confidence to create change.

But discussions allow us to bring more people onto our team to work together. This year, let’s focus on how we can have healthier DISCUSSIONS. Here’s how to get started:

  • Make a solution based on a teamwork approach, not an individual approach.  Ask questions.  Do not assume other people think like you.  There are always at least two sides of the story.
  • Never attack or tell someone he/she is wrong; do not judge and do not hold grudges.
  • Accept there will be compromises.
  • Show appreciation of others’ perspectives.  This is key.
  • Know that solutions are a work in progress and will need to be revisited over time.
  • Write down the different needs expressed and come up with possible strategies. Realize that there may be different solutions to solve the same problem.
  • If presenting to a stakeholder with more power, like a school board or local politician, present your concern politely, “These are our needs, and here are some solutions we came up with. What can you do to help?”  Be confident and respectful in asking these stakeholder questions.  Do not demand, manipulate, or threaten.
  • When cultivating critical thinking, confidence, and empowerment within your children, don’t forget they need to respect authority.

Discussion is more effective than debating, and everyone involved will likely feel more compelled to respect each other. It unifies, not divides. This is the healthy way.  If you want your voices to effectively be heard, you will need the help from people with whom you may disagree.  You will end up valuing these different perspectives, which bring about a coherent solution.  We should always do our best to work together, not against each other.  This is how you create effective change.

NCPTA Lobby Day Scheduled for March 14

The annual NCPTA Lobby Day is Tuesday, March 14th. This is a great opportunity to build legislative support for our schools and showcase PTAs across the state.

We’ll meet in the morning to attend committee hearings and set up individual meetings with legislators for afternoon visits. If you’re interested in participating, please RSVP below by February 20.

We will hold a Lobby Day training webinar on February 28 at 7 p.m. for lobby day participants in preparation for the March 14 Lobby Day.

Registration is closed. Please contact with questions.

Now Recruiting for the NCPTA Board of Directors

The NCPTA nominating committee is seeking passionate and energetic leaders committed to helping all children to serve on its Board of Directors.

If you are an individual with the drive to work with an inspiring and exciting group dedicated to the PTA mission and striving to make a significant difference in ensuring all children reach their full potential, please fill out our Online Interest Form by January 31.


Connecting Your Students through Gratitude

Amy Kobos, Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

What makes our teachers great? Each one of us has a unique experience that has sculpted us into who we are. Some have had very challenging lives, while others have challenges that lie ahead. Our teachers realize this, and with skill and patience, they assist us in challenges and help us grow from them. What is this fuel which helps us progress through these obstacles? It could be a physical skill an instructor took the time to demonstrate that helped you learn how to take risks in life. It could be your 6th grade teacher who helped you understand a math skill so you could incorporate it into your adulthood. It could even be the parents who establish healthy boundaries in real life.

Gratitude is central to the holiday season and the New Year! What better time to encourage students to appreciate how teachers have helped them flourish in the classroom and beyond! Last month, we mentioned a gratitude activity in the “Rethink Your Holidays with 10 Healthy Tips,” article which focused on gratitude among classmates. This emphasized the uniqueness of what or who helps us get through the challenges in our lives. This also incorporated the value of interpersonal relationships, cultural diversity, and critical thinking into the classroom. Let’s take this a step further with your students so they can show gratitude for you!

Here are some ideas:

  • Make a gratitude jar for the teacher as a gift. Throughout the semester, each student could submit words of appreciation on how he/she has developed while in the classroom.
  • Integrate gratitude towards teachers in your students’ weekly journal entries.
  • Have the students collect and frame inspiring quotes that mean something them as a gift to the teacher.
  • Instead of students bringing in sweets to show appreciation, encourage the students and parents to put together healthier gifts, like fruit bouquets, yogurt parfaits, a pass to the local botanical gardens, or even gift card for a massage or Home Depot.

Gratitude isn’t just a tool we use for self-exploration and self-growth. Gratitude is a tool we use to connect. When students participate in activities like this, it helps them become aware of what facilitates their obstacles and progress. It develops a healthier state of mind by turning those “what ifs” into something more assuring, like “I’ll do fine no matter what.” Gratitude connects us to all of those little life events and people of which or whom we may have taken for granted. This forms a unique footprint which helps sculpt those bridges that we can utilize on whatever path we take.

Empowering Your Kids About Healthy Body Image Starts with YOU

By Amy Kobos, Health and Wellness Promotor, Fayetteville

This conversation is just as important as the birds and the bees.

You need to talk with your children and students about healthy body image. But, how can you talk to them if you aren’t sure what healthy body image is?  We have been flooded for decades with what we ‘think’ healthy body image is, only to religiously count calories, go on fad diets, exercise profusely and feel guilty for eating a dessert.  The media are saturated with focusing on weight loss and depicting skinny girls and boys – because this is what we should be.  We also give excuses for thinking it’s okay to skip meals: “I’m too busy to eat; I shouldn’t eat as much today because I ate a lot last night; I need to fit in those pants.”  This is the core of American culture’s perception of what healthy body image is.

To have this conversation, it needs to happen with you first.  Use these tools to facilitate exploration within yourself so you know how to convey this to your kids:

  • What is your definition of healthy body image?
  • Why do you feel America’s current perspective on healthy body image is how you have to be accepted in society?
  • What components are necessary in order to sustain healthy body image?
  • How do you prioritize your body to stay healthy?
  • Do you feel guilty or make excuses for your body’s needs? If so, why?

Each one of you is going to have different answers. This is okay!  Butyou need to sort out what’s healthy and what could be detrimental.
Read more.

Three Easy Ways to Make Time for YOU

Joelle Sevio RDH BS CPT is the former Health and Wellness Chair for the Wake County PTA Council and an ironman athlete and you can find more of her work at

As parents, we make sure our kids are active, eat healthy foods, and don’t skip breakfast. So why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standards? Probably because our to-do lists are long: after work, kids, taking care of the house, and walking the dog, self-care is the thing that usually comes in last.

You’re thinking: yes, I know. As soon as we get through the holidays and January gets here I’ll do things differently. But what if you could get started NOW and start the year off feeling great?

It seems daunting, but like most major changes, taking it in steps is key. In my 15 plus years as a competitive athlete, as a mom, and working in the health and fitness industry, I have learned a strategy or two, and I’d like to share a few of them with you here. Your task is to implement ONE of these a week until they stick. Once you have a good handle on the first strategy, then move to the next.

1. Find the time for movement in your life. If your child has a sporting practice, use that time for physical activity and a digital detox. Use sidewalks or walk/run around their field where they are practicing (as long as you don’t embarrass them!) You may think 15-30 minutes isn’t enough but you will be surprised at the physical and psychological benefit you get from even a short amount of exertion. If you already have a good fitness base, don’t discount a short workout as opposed to no workout. Add intensity if you can’t go the distance. Other ideas include bike rides as a family, running while your child rides their bike or walking/running/riding your bike to the school to volunteer. If you are a working parent, use your lunchtime to fit a workout in.

My favorite way to hold yourself accountable is to make an appointment on your calendar.

2. Move towards a less-processed whole foods life. Look at what is in the food you are buying. If you have older kids, have then help you investigate the labels. How about this week switch out the chips and make baked potatoes? Buy one less processed item and one more item from the produce. Don’t feel guilty over the holidays when you have treats, because you are already making steps in the right direction. Focus on the fact that you are making progress! After all, you are on strategy #2 so that means you have conquered #1! It helps to have a mantra to repeat to yourself when you are in situations where you will tend to make food choices that aren’t the best. What will your mantra be?

3. Get your entire family involved in the kitchen. No one needs to be a gourmet cook. And let’s face it, what 3-6 year old doesn’t love cutting soft fruit with a dull spreading knife? If you have older kids, let them pick a night to cook or for you to cook together. Remember: think less processed and choose foods that grow from the Earth. Let’s get back to cooking and family time—family dinners should be a priority but most of us are over committed so you should feel like you have conquered #3 when family dinners are 2-3 times a week! I love using a crock pot or cooking in bulk. How about homemade pancakes for dinner and freeze some for breakfast on the weekend?

Change takes time and effort but since you are reading this, I know you are ready to get started on strategy #1. I have added a nutrient dense delicious recipe to help you start your journey. This is a great one for kids to make on their own or with a little help if they are under 8.

Oatmeal Bites

1 cup Oatmeal (organic if possible; oatmeal is naturally gluten free for those with a gluten allergy, but many brands of oatmeal are processed at facilities with gluten, so read the label)
½ cup nut butter (I like cashew for the extra iron or try organic peanut butter)
⅓ cup honey or maple syrup
½ cup ground flax seed (organic if possible)
¼-½ cup low sugar dark chocolate chips (55%or more chocolate for more nutrients)

Combine ingredients and mix together in a bowl. Roll mixture into bite size balls. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and enjoy! Store these in the refrigerator. These are great for lunches and for holiday parties without the guilt! These do have allergens including nut, so be mindful of what is safe for your family and what is allowed at your school!

Hurricanes Ticket Savings at NCPTA Night

Hurricanes tickets make great Holiday Gifts!

The North Carolina PTA has teamed up with the Carolina Hurricanes to bring you a special opportunity. Get in on the action and take advantage of big savings on tickets for this special game night!

hurricanesflyer_011417Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders
Saturday, January 14, 2017
7 p.m.
PNC Arena
Raleigh, NC

A portion of every ticket purchased through this special offer also benefits NCPTA Programs.

Purchase Tickets Today!

NCPTA Selects Reflections Theme Search Winners

National PTA Reflections sponsors a student-focused Theme Search Contest annually to determine a future program theme.

NCPTA proudly announces the following state-level winners for the Reflections 2018-2019 Theme Search:

“If Only I Could…”
Eric Cai, Polo Ridge Elementary PTA, Charlotte

“What is your purpose”
Charitha Kamuni, Alston Ridge Elementary PTA, Cary

“Make your mark”
Konstantina Kortesis, Southeast Middle PTSA, Kernersville

“The Great Escape”
Sherry Liu, Jay M. Robinson Middle PTA, Charlotte

Viraj Singh, Barringer Academic Center PTA, Charlotte

Learn more about the Reflections Art Program.