Spotlights
FACE of the Week: Emory Young, President of the PTA Council of Baltimore County
As part of BCPS’ commitment to ongoing Family And Community Engagement, the “FACE of the Week” is a new, regular feature of the BCPS website that introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS special – our volunteers and PTA members.
10/09/2015

Spotlight

So, what is a self-described "behind-the-scenes type of person" doing steering the PTA Council of Baltimore County, the administrative body that oversees 154 member Parent-Teacher Associations across the county?

Actually, it’s a good fit for Emory Young, the soft-spoken 45-year-old who assumed the Council’s presidency in 2014. The North Carolina native majored in engineering at North Carolina State University and tests network equipment for Verizon. The same intellectual curiosity that led him to engineering led him to the county’s PTA. What is it all about, he once wondered, and how can it be better? 

"This role as president was really kind of a leap of faith for me," says Young, who is in the last year of his term. "It was about gaining knowledge for me, and I realized that sometimes it’s not until you get out of your bubble that you see what you are looking for."

Today, the council that Young leads seeks to become more of a resource to school PTA units and their combined 23,000 members in BCPS. Already the group has taken steps to open dialogue – a revitalized newsletter to members, use of email and marketing software to bring about more timely communications, a more accessible website, and a renewed push for growth among the chapters.

"There are challenges. Membership is down – that’s a statewide trend and something we need to work on," he says. "But the potential is enormous; it’s getting the fundraising mindset out of (parents’) heads and recalibrating. The things I’ve seen the parents come out to support and voice their concern about – that’s been hopeful."

An inquisitive spirit

Like many parents, Young’s connection to the PTA began with the growth of his own children – Priscilla now is in Grade 7 at Franklin Middle School, while Jonathan is in Grade 5 at Franklin Elementary School. Like many, Young’s initial impression of school PTAs was ill-informed.

"When my children were in Kindergarten, I got a flyer, I showed up at a meeting, and I ended up cleaning up after the meeting," he recalls of his first brush with PTA. "I didn’t know a lot about it. . . . It still has that stigma of being about fundraising and that ‘you want me to come to meeting and volunteer for something.’ [Parents] don’t always think of it as a child advocacy organization."

But as he kept exploring, Young found himself more involved – "I could see where the money was going" – and he began attending Council meeting and Board of Education meetings. "You learn more of what’s going on," he says. He became interested in the state PTA and visited other county PTA groups to see how they did things. He joined the nominating committee of the Baltimore County Council, and it wasn’t long before he began to think about becoming a leader within the organization.

"Here was this guy who was coming to all of our (Council) meetings, and he would just sit in the back and watch," says Council member Jayne Lee. "But that’s just his way – he takes everything in, and he listens."

Adds Young, "I’d thought about (running for office), especially since I was already spending a lot of time out of the house. . . . On the state level, they thought I could do a good job. But I wasn’t sure what I was getting into."

Leading with a personal touch

The common theme Young saw – in Baltimore County, in other counties, across the state – was a desire to get parents involved. The numbers of volunteers needed to run the organization, on both the state and local levels, is itself daunting, Young concedes.

But as president of the Council, Young has brought fresh eyes to the post. He has worked with Dr. Dance and county educators on issues ranging from implementation of the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.) program and state curriculum mandates to air conditioning and magnet schools. 

He says it’s his "personal touch" that has distinguished his leadership – "reaching out to more people."

His assessment is echoed by fellow Council members, some of them longtime PTA activists compared to Young’s relatively recent embrace of the group’s mission. 

"He has helped the Council in numerous ways; he’s very giving, and I can’t say enough about him," says Georgina Clevenger of Owings Mills, the Council’s secretary. "I’ve noticed that in talking with various units, you hear the same things – communication has improved, for one thing. People feel that he’s someone who will listen."

And there is something else about Young that has helped the group grow says Council member Lee. "There’s not a night when he’s not out at a local [PTA unit] serving their needs," she says. She relates stories about Young surprising members at their homes with take-out dinners or, in her case, once showing up unexpectedly to help Lee’s ailing mother make it to an important appointment. "Emory picks her up and carries her to the car, and that’s the way he is," she says. "He just goes in and does what needs to be done. 

"You don’t say no to him. It’s a matter of respect; people respect him so they do for him," Lee adds. "You want to help him because he’s just a nice guy."

Room to grow

Young sees the PTA Council and PTAs in general becoming stronger voices for advocating for children and schools. The council, he says, can be a resource to help parents through the issues, a source of institutional knowledge and know-how that can provide guidance and assurance. "We’re a work in progress, rebuilding and bringing in people," Young says.

Young says he hasn’t decided whether or not to run for re-election in April, but he knows he’s made a difference. "It’s been challenging," he says, "but like anything, you can walk away at the end of the day and you feel like you accomplished something. . . . I’m encouraged, but I’m frustrated, too – the (Council) should be twice its size given the size of our county."

He encourages anyone curious about the PTA, as he once was, to get involved at the local level and to "stick it out." Remember, he adds, "this is all for the children, for your children.

"We need to see to it that the kids continue to get a good, high-quality education and that schools get what they need. That’s the bottom line."   

To learn more about the PTA Council of Baltimore County, visit http://www.bcptacouncil.org/.   

For more photos, visit the BCPS Flickr site at www.flickr.com/photos/bcps/albums/72157657262134543.

Story and photos by Charles Herndon, specialist, BCPS Family and Community Engagement.
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