Stepping into the Parent Circle

Year three of the How Far? capital campaign began with a challenge to current Penn Charter families to participate in the effort to secure the future of the school and the campus.

Campaign leaders hope to generate support for the campaign, but also have a more far-reaching intent: to change the culture of parent giving at Penn Charter. While the percentage of alumni making gifts to PC far exceeds the support that other graduates give to their independent schools, parent giving at Penn Charter falls below peer independent schools. 

By forming a new Parent Circle, school leaders hope to underscore the crucial role that parent giving plays in the strength of an independent school. To boost the inaugural Parent Circle effort, a few generous Penn Charter parents have offered a challenge: 

5 adults stand together. All white women except one black man second from left.

If 500 current families make a gift—any size gift to any fund—this academic year, they will unlock an additional $500,000. 

At press time, we are 30 percent toward our goal of 500 gifts. Below, three PC parents who have stepped into the Parent Circle represent first-time donors, new parents and longtime donors. They share their Penn Charter “why.” 

As fifth grader Jacqueline Plastaras prepares to finish her sixth and final year in Lower School, her parents, Heather and Chris Plastaras, are reflecting on her time at Penn Charter.

“I think for Jacqueline the big showcase projects in each grade will be things she will remember,” Heather said. Those projects include third grade’s Wax Museum and fourth grade’s Mask Celebration, both interdisciplinary projects that combine art, social studies, technology, reading, writing and public speaking. 

White male-female couple smile at the camera.

“For me,” Heather continued, “what I will remember is more of the emotional ambiance—the way that regular and specials teachers are so invested in her. In some ways, I think they know her as well as we do … it’s really meaningful.” 

Wanting to help Penn Charter thrive among other independent schools today and to sustain it for another 330 years going forward, Heather and Chris felt inspired to make their first gift to Penn Charter this year. They wanted to be part of the answer to the school’s goal of 500 gifts, of any size, from parents. 

“I feel like this is a tiny way of repaying that investment that they have made in Jacqueline,” Heather said. “Lower School has really been all we’ve experienced at Penn Charter so far, but the experience has been so wonderful. The future transition to Middle School has made me feel that maybe now is a good time to show our support of the school in general."

Each day, new Penn Charter parents Julie and Eric Furda watch their son, Matt, tackle sixth grade with exuberance. At first, they worried that Middle School at Penn Charter would be a big switch—Matt’s previous school had no dress code, no homework, and it was around the block from their home. 

But it was no big deal to Matt. “Every day,” his mom, Julie, said, “he is up and dressed in PC-compliant wardrobe, out the door and on the bus at 7:02, getting it all done and doing it all with such a little skip in his step when he walks onto that campus. My husband and I are so proud of how well he’s handled this transition. It’s much more challenging academically and logistically, but he never complains. He comes home and attacks his homework and gets it all done.” 

Mother and son with heads together smile, facing the camera.

What does Matt like about sixth grade? He feels like he has a lot of autonomy, Julie said. He manages his assignments in the Hub (PC’s learning management system), he has one-on-one relationships with his adviser and with his teachers, and he loves the school spirit and his Middle School sports teams. “He likes that freedom and independence and responsibility.” 

The Furdas, in their first year as Penn Charter parents, made a gift that made them part of the Parent Circle. “My husband and I have been reflecting on what a good fit this is for Matt and how he’s been thriving,” Julie said. “You just want your kids being seen as an individual and for their strengths and weaknesses. 

“The overarching thing is we just love the school and want to support it, and that’s why we made the gift."

Matt did feel conflicted about one thing this year: the Super Bowl. On the one hand, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid has connections to Philadelphia. On the other … San Francisco 49er Mike McGlinchey OPC ’13. “Matt will tell people that number 69, the right tackle, went to his school,” Julie said. “In a few short months, he is a Penn Charter citizen. He has jumped right in, feet first.” 

Tory Myers Bowen, mother of Jack in grade 8 and Xander in grade 5, has a connection to Penn Charter that goes back to her own childhood. Her late father, Walter Myers Hon. 1689, was director of development at Penn Charter, from 1964 to 1981. 

Her brothers, Chris, Greg, Tim, Jon and Alec, are all PC “lifers,” and she and her sister, Jennifer, attended PC through second grade, the last grade that included girls back then in the otherwise all-boys Penn Charter.

“My dad was a great person,” Tory said. “He passed away seven years ago. He absolutely loved Penn Charter. He was always at my brothers’ games, loved its Quaker values, and always came back to Color Day.” Her mom, Joanna Shaw Myers, still attends Color Day.

Family of four, two young boys stand in front of mantel decorated for christmas. Dad and 2 boys have blue blazers on.

Tory and her husband, Frank, consistent donors to Penn Charter, increased their usual gift this year, becoming leadership donors. Their gift is in memory of her father, Walter Myers.

“Frank and I feel that it’s important to help Penn Charter continue efforts of diversity and inclusion in the school,” Tory said.

“I’m excited about the Athletics and Wellness Center because Jack is a wrestler and Xander is a swimmer, but more importantly, I am hoping all students and faculty at Penn Charter will be able to benefit from that facility.”

“My dad really loved PC,” she said. “He instilled Quaker values in all of us, and that’s what we want our boys to have.” PC

Top Photo Caption: Working with Nicole Martz, PC director of engagement and development operations, the six-member Parent Campaign Committee is spearheading the Parent Circle effort to increase parent giving at PC. Wondering what the Parent Circle is all about? Have a conversation with a committee member: Brigitte Addimando P ‘28, ‘29, ‘33, Greg Summers OPC ‘89, P ‘23, ‘26, Martz P ‘22, ‘24, Donna Perkins P ‘23, ‘26, Barbara Davey P ‘23, ‘24. Not shown: Erin Graham P ‘23, and Luke Urban OPC ‘98, P ‘30, ‘32.