JOINT MULTINATIONAL READINESS CENTER, Germany – It was not a question for Janet David, as the outgoing president of the Hohenfels Parent Teacher Organization, when it came to helping make the best possible year for students of Hohenfels Middle / High School.
What she did not expect was how much generosity organizations and individuals in the community brought to their PTO's efforts.
"Our kids deserve the best, and that's what we came together to give them," David said. "Our PTO members networked – put the word out about our efforts, and our community immediately stepped in."
Over the course of the previous academic year, members of the PTO worked hard to give students in the Hohenfels military community the hallmark experiences typical to most American students. During homecoming week, they provided students snacks, worked with the Sgt. Morales Club and Panther Team to provide concessions at the game. The PTO sponsored the homecoming dance. They worked with the charitable organization Operation Deploy Your Dress to make the high school prom a formal, elegant event. They spotlighted seniors, individualizing gifts that would go to help the outgoing students. They worked with the school and other organizations to provide graduating eighth graders a bridging ceremony.
David said part of her motive was reminding students of life before COVID-19 had significantly changed the world.
"As adults, we recognize how the pandemic affected us, and it's difficult to fathom how our younger selves would have coped," she said. "Then you think of our kids that had to cope, and it speaks volumes of how resilient, adaptable and strong they are."
David and others in the PTO brought their Hispanic traditions to the community, having a Latin night where members sold tacos from the Zone in order to fund a JROTC cadet ball.
"And then we did tamales for the Christmas tree lighting because that is a traditional thing," David said. "It's our Hispanic tradition to come together and make tamales, so that's what we did: We got together and made tamales, and then sold them as a fundraiser to the community."
During the same event, they also provided Hispanic desserts to the community, such as flan.
David moved away due to Family concerns. She found new purpose at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, where she works for the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program. Although she stepped away from the PTO, she remains heavily invested as her oldest continues going to Hohenfels Middle / High School as a senior.
David remains proud of the many collaborations she helped facilitate between the PTO and other organizations, such as the renewal of a talent show in November last year.
"Raising our kids is the highlight of our lives as parents and guardians," David said. "We know these are the memories our kids will treasure. I believe we came together so that when our kids look back at their time in Germany, their memories are not all engulfed by Pandemic restrictions but are of beautiful, fun, youthful memories that we helped them create."
The new academic year begins Aug. 21, 2023, and the PTO have already begun work, first by decorating the hallway of the middle / high school to welcome the incoming students.
With an election in the summer, a new PTO started work for the new school year, including president Antonia Fairley and vice president Grace Jowers.
With a new principal on the ground, the PTO is looking forward to coordinating with the school to ensure their efforts are synchronized.
"We're really hoping to support athletics and academics equally," said Jowers. "We were able to achieve a football team this year. So we're going to be doing concessions with them.”
The members want to help reduce the financial burden associated with intramural sporting events in Europe, which requires travel. The same applies for other extracurricular clubs and activities.
"We just want to be there to make sure they have a good year and they're getting lots of celebrations in," said Jowers. "At the end of the year we always go big for the seniors, of course, with their parades. We make sure they have posters at graduation."
Jowers said the PTO's efforts are not exclusive to the high school students but will encompass middle school students as well.
"We're trying to do more for them," she said. "As someone who has a middle schooler, I absolutely agree with that. There's not a lot for them. So I know we want to do a middle school dance."
Beyond her role as vice president in the PTO, Jowers also cooks in the cafeteria, and she admired a lot of the activities the middle high school took part in.
Jowers, Fairley are new to their roles. Jowers said adjusting to running the PTO is a fun challenge. Jowers, who came from a large school district in Washington state, felt it was a big adjustment – not just to herself but to her three children – to arrive at such a small school in the Department of Defense Education Activity school.
"We're just there to listen to what the kids need or want in the school," she said. "The kids are at such a disadvantage for being at such a tiny school and not getting that experience."
As the new year begins and a new PTO board gets to work, Jowers said she hopes the PTO will continue, as it had the year before, to build relationships within the community.
"There was such a need for our kids to be celebrated, that I’m really excited to create those community bonds," she said. "The kids give so much to come here. They don't get that normalcy. So seeing them celebrated the way that we try to do it, it is what I'm looking forward to the most."