Pawling PTSA Provides Unexpected Opportunities For Students


Some Pawling middle and high school students have been finding opportunities in an unexpected place: Pawling’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA).

Although student participation is integral to the PTSA’s purpose, getting students involved with the organization has been challenging in recent years. When PTSA President Melanie Middlebrook first joined six years ago, designated student representatives worked alongside parents, teachers and principals to brainstorm ideas and provide reports on student interests. This year, the PTSA is working to revive that tradition.

“One of the most challenging things about helping students is that you don’t know what they’re interested in,” said Middlebrook. “Their feedback is incredibly valuable, so more student involvement is very important to us this year.”

Last year, the PTSA was successful in garnering interest through eighth grade English teacher Darlene Eirish-Schofield’s 20time project, an educational initiative that encourages students to pursue their own passions and interests for twenty percent of their class time. Students fundraised for trips at the PTSA tag sale and worked alongside members to fund, organize and enhance special events.

“No matter what they need, the PTSA always has something to offer,” said Eirish-Schofield (who also serves as eighth grade class advisor along with middle school English Language Learner teacher Jessica Garcia). “They’re willing to go the extra mile for all of our Pawling kids. We have a great relationship with them and I look forward to an even better experience this year.”

Others have gotten involved through clubs and student organizations; Pawling tenth grader Lucas Walsh is one of those students. He and his sister Elizabeth (eighth grade) have been involved with the PTSA since they each entered middle school.

“The PTSA gives us access to things that we can’t always get on our own,” Lucas said. “For example, they helped us fill out forms and meet requirements to get a food truck at one of our dances last year.”

Elizabeth described a special collaboration between her fifth grade class and the PTSA in 2020 – adopting a tiger from the Beardsley Zoo.

“It was really cool and special, and we would never have been able to do that on our own,” said Elizabeth. “We also get a lot of knowledge and experience when we work together with teachers and parents.”

“I think working with the PTSA could be especially beneficial later in life and in our careers,” Lucas added. “No matter what you do, you have to work alongside people who are much different than you throughout your life. It’s a good lesson in learning how to communicate and respectfully listen to others.”

“The PTSA does a lot of things that benefit us, so it is nice to show that we’re grateful and helping to make a difference with that,” Elizabeth added.

Middlebrook is hopeful that the 2023-24 school year will bring even more students to the PTSA.

“Not only is it helpful to us, but it’s a great opportunity for students to get face time with teachers and principals that they don’t normally have in school,” she said. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Their voices are so important.”

If you’re a student or parent who is interested in becoming a member or volunteering with the PTSA, visit their website at