Spotlights
Living a life of no regrets: a finalist for Maryland’s Parent Involvement Matters Award
06/17/2016

Spotlight

For Towson resident Cheri Pegues, a guiding life principle comes down to one, simple directive:

No regrets.

That attitude led to her leaving a career as a medical office manager to raise the boy, Brenton, she and husband Bob adopted all those years ago. It led to her deciding to volunteer at Brenton’s schools – first at Riderwood Elementary, then at Dumbarton Middle, and today at Towson High. “No regrets” led her to champion an idea she had to help several Towson High families in need of assistance, an initiative that became the school’s “Adopt-A-Family” program last winter.

“I just didn’t want to look back some day and say I didn’t know, that I didn’t get a chance to be there and be part of something important to me,” Pegues said on a recent afternoon at Towson High.

This month, Pegues’ maxim led to her being named one of five finalists for Maryland’s Parent Involvement Matters Award, or PIMA. She and 24 other county PIMA nominees were celebrated for their work in support of local schools and students during a June 3 gala banquet and awards ceremony at Martin’s West in Woodlawn sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Now in its ninth year, PIMA is the nation’s only statewide awards program to honor parents and guardians for their work and contributions in one or more areas of parental involvement, including communication, volunteering, learning, decision-making, and community collaboration. The program’s slogan this year was “Choose Your Seat, Get Involved.”

“Maryland schools,” Gov. Larry Hogan said regarding the PIMA nominees this year, “are at their best when parents and other volunteers are working to improve each classroom for every child.”

In addition to Pegues being named a finalist, the PIMA awards this year had a distinctly Baltimore County flair. The school system’s 2015 – 2016 Teacher of the Year, Orly Mondell, spoke to the group, and singers from Franklin High School provided entertainment.

Choose Your Seat, Get Involved

And as an annual highlight of the PIMA program, students from Eastern Technical High School painted the symbolic “seats” used in the gala – two chairs festooned with Maryland-centric logos and images ranging from crabs and Natty Boh to rowhouses and Baltimore landmarks.

The students, led by Eastern art teacher Mary Hennessey-Rayburn, and students Lauren Brown, Rachel Bull, and Harshika Varadhan had only about two weeks to design and paint the special chairs, which were used in the gala program to draw attention to the program’s “Choose Your Seat” slogan.  

Towson’s Adopt-A-Family Program

Pegues was nominated for the PIMA award for developing Towson’s Adopt-A-Family program, which matches needy students and their families with families willing to provide supports ranging from clothing to school supplies. The program benefitted 28 students and their families this year and plans are underway to expand it both at Towson and to other schools.

The idea originated when Pegues served as PTA president at Dumbarton Middle School. Bringing the idea with her to Towson, she noted that the school’s PTA did not have a budget line item for charitable giving. Working with school social worker Laura Kogelschatz, she identified families who might benefit from the program as well as families she thought might be interested in “adopting” a family. Fearing that families would be unresponsive or hostile to the idea, she was delighted when her plan was met with open arms and gratitude.

“A lot of people think of Towson as being a wealthy area, but there are varying degrees (of wealth) here just as there are everywhere,” Pegues says. “We have children who come to school hungry, too.”

Towson High School Principal Charlene DiMino nominated Pegues for the PIMA award after being impressed with how much Pegues achieved not only with the Adopt-A-Family program but also her other contributions to the school.  

Above and beyond

“Her organization, attention to detail, and decision-making have resulted in numerous donations (to Adopt-A-Family),” DiMino says. “But Ms. Pegues goes above and beyond to support the instructional staff as well. As president of the PTSA, she has worked diligently to enhance the school program by bringing in a variety of guest speakers to assist with educating our youth to make wise choices. Her efforts have enhanced the education of both our parents and our students.”

For the next school year, Pegues seeks to find space within Towson High to build a permanent “supply pantry” for students and their families to be able to get necessities ranging from canned food to toiletries. Working with Towson Presbyterian Church and other supporters, she and the PTA also seek to expand a variety of other supports ranging from Adopt-A-Family to providing mentoring opportunities to assist students.

“I was shocked to be nominated for the PIMA award for something that, to me, seems so simple and basic,” she said of Adopt-A-Family. “But already it’s helping – since the award, I’ve had the family of one incoming freshman already call after seeing the PIMA story (in the media) and say, ‘Sign me up.’”

For more photos, visit the BCPS Flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/bcps/albums/72157667169650163.

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