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Dining Hall at Cary Academy

CA Curious

We are because you are

October 31, 2019

I will admit that volunteering was not on the forefront of my mind when my first child entered Middle School. We had plenty of other things to navigate. We had to learn how to use the tablet. We had sports. We had a 20-minute commute (each way, uphill, in the snow). So many other things seemed to occupy nearly every second of my free time – I couldn’t fathom how adding to the list would prove doable (or, frankly, valuable) for my family.

However, not wanting to fall short on a commitment, I reluctantly (at first) started to dip my toes into volunteering at CA. I attended a coffee here, donated a short hour of my time there.

Almost immediately, I made a happy discovery. Far from being arduous or further complicating our lives, connecting with other parents at CA in these small ways actually made my family life… easier.

Further gratifying, I could see how even the smallest contribution of my time and talent had a real, tangible, and positive impact on the day-to-day lives of CA students, and on the larger community. Soon, my family and I started to feel connected to a larger whole, to develop a sense that we’re all in this together.

Fast forward a couple of years and, those initially small connections? They’ve developed into a meaningful support system on which my family and I will be able to draw for years to come. It’s been such a powerful experience that I’ve been inspired to pay it forward by deepening my engagement and joining the leadership team of Parent Teacher Administration Alliance (PTAA).

I’m not alone in my experience. Ask nearly anyone about what makes the CA experience so special and you will inevitably hear: “our community.”

At CA, our community extends beyond our students, staff, administrators, faculty, and alumni to include all CA parents — each an automatic member of the PTAA — all bound together by a commitment to our kids and to CA’s vision of educational excellence. In ways big and small – as leaders, educators, caregivers, cheerleaders, chauffeurs, volunteers, and constituents – the PTAA is a core component of the magic behind CA’s tight-knit community.

That powerful sense of community connection lies at the heart of the South African concept of ubuntu. Loosely translated as “I am because you are,” it suggests that each of us are shaped by the connections that we have with one another, that our sense of identity and our experiences are inextricably linked. That, as members of the same community, we are constantly impacting each other’s lives, both intentionally and unintentionally.

So, with ubuntu in mind: who is the PTAA? Quite simply: we are what you make us.

So, who, dare I ask, are you?

We’ve established that you are a CA community member, but you and I both know that you are so much more. You have made decisions to participate in a career, to have children, and to be a part of other partnerships–whether it’s public service, an athletic team, a religious affiliation, etc.. Without question, you have elicited change, impacted lives, inspired, and cultivated those around you.

Maybe you haven’t thought about your accomplishments, maybe you have. But, have you thought about it in this context: What have you shared and how have you impacted the community that will yield our future doctors, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and civil servants?

If so, what comes to mind? What does meaningful impact look like to you? And, how do you attain it?

I’m certain that you’ve heard the saying, “volunteerism starts at home.” Over the last five years as a CA parent, I have heard this saying over and over again and it is undeniably true. As leaders, parents, caregivers, and constituents, we have to ask ourselves: how are we modeling this sentiment? There is no simple answer to this question, but I can tell you that even a small effort in our community can have a huge impact, both personally and communally.

Perhaps you are a busy dad with only thirty minutes to volunteer by serving pizza to Middle Schoolers during your lunch break, or a working mom that can only spare an occasional hour or two for a CA service project on the weekend. Maybe you’re a professional with valuable advice to share during Discovery Term, or an impassioned advocate for a cause that you would like to see us address as a community. Possibly you’re an overwhelmed parent that is looking to foster connection with others going through the same. Or maybe you’re just looking to amplify the joy, the fun in our community.

As a community that practices inclusion, appreciation, and gratitude, the PTAA welcomes all of our members – all of your energy and your ideas. There are ample opportunities – big and small (after all, many hands make light work) – to meaningfully engage and connect, to come together to help shape who we are as a community, to support, encourage, and inspire each other, our students, and the larger CA community to be the very best it can be.

After all, we are because you are.

Written by Kimberly Eheman, PTAA Vice President

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