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Parents get taste of teens' lives at Freedom High PTA event

Donna McCarthy, left, and Lisa Shollenberger sit in a simulated math class at Freedom High School on Thursday night.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Donna McCarthy, left, and Lisa Shollenberger sit in a simulated math class at Freedom High School on Thursday night.

NEW TAMPA — Lisa Shollenberger got asked out on a date Thursday night.

She also failed a Spanish test, but aced an English quiz and joined a clique.

Not too bad for a 42-year-old.

Shollenberger was among about 100 parents who drifted back to "school" during an event that earned the PTA at Freedom High a coveted national award and a little cash to boot.

The National PTA holds a contest each year for unique "Take Your Family to School" events. This year 405 schools nationwide submitted ideas, of which 32 were awarded a prize.

Only three of them were high schools, including Freedom, which was also the only school to win in Hillsborough County.

The idea? To put parents in their teens' shoes.

On Thursday, parents attended classes, rushed to beat the tardy bell, participated in lessons and took tests — all to gain a glimpse into their children's hectic and sometimes stressful lives.

"In the PTA world, this is huge," Melissa Erickson, president of the Hillsborough County PTA, said of the award.

"Parental involvement tends to drop off as the grades go higher," she said, adding that the event was a way to get parents more involved.

Freedom High School PTA received a check in the amount of $1,897. The amount signified the year National PTA was founded.

The idea to hold a boot camp for parents came to Freedom's PTA president, Donna Moffatt, who recalled sitting in her son's AP human geography class during a conference night four years ago. She was surprised by how much he was learning.

"You hear parents talk all the time about how much work their kids have to do," she said. But parents rarely talk about the content of their kids' education, she said.

So she sat down and devised a plan to show them exactly what their children were learning.

Thursday, during a brief awards ceremony in the media center before "school" started, Hillsborough County School Board member Jack Lamb urged the parents to pay attention in class because they would be given quizzes.

Bruce Moffatt, whose son is a freshman, joked that he had the answers written in the palm of his left hand.

Mirian Smith, whose daughter is a sophomore, giggled: "Text me with the answers."

"We're going to get sent to the principal's office," he said.

PTA members passed out backpacks filled with supplies and handed each parent a class schedule listing four 20-minute classes. They had six minutes between periods. Each class had about 15 students.

In English class, assistant principal Rosemary Owens quizzed them on nouns. In foreign language, assistant principal Marisa Carmody gave them a test on the Spanish alphabet. In world history, teacher Chris Alexander gave a lecture on supply and demand.

Parents laughed nervously as instructors called on them to answer questions about subjects they had learned decades ago.

"This is reminding me of how much I don't remember," said Chris Slater, a 1979 high school graduate whose son is a senior.

Smith, who graduated high school 25 years ago, said the event was helpful.

"I feel like I know my daughter better," she said. "My daughter doesn't tell me anything. She's a teenager. This is wonderful."

As a newly formed clique congregated in the courtyard between second and third period, Jason Shollenberger turned to his wife and asked: "So you wanna go to the dance?"

Parents get taste of teens' lives at Freedom High PTA event 02/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 11:20pm]

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