The South Colonie Central School District Parent-Teacher Association changed Jeff Zelka's life, and, in turn, Zelka changed the PTA this week by becoming the first male president of the Sand Creek Middle School PTA Tuesday, May 5.
The 43-year-old Loudonville resident has been a PTA member for the past few years. This school year was the first time he held office in the Sand Creek PTA as second vice president.
Zelka is a recovering alcoholic, which he said he is very vocal and very proud about, and has recently celebrated his fourth year sober. He credits the PTA with playing a role in his recovery.
"I don't want kids to go down the wrong path," he said.
Zelka said another thing that inspired him to join the PTA was his divorce.
"There are not a lot of dads involved, whether it's due to separation or divorce," Zelka said, describing the issue as something he has crusaded against during his time on the PTA. "I think it makes a difference in the child when there is parent involvement " whether it's the mom or the dad."
After his divorce, Zelka said, it was hard to stay informed about issues that arose at school with his children, Nicole, a sixth-grader at Sand Creek, and Taylor, a ninth-grader at Colonie Central High School.
"Paperwork would only go out to Mom," he said.
Zelka decided to join the PTA so that he could hear of announcements in the school before the paperwork went out to parents through their children.
Another "crusade" of Zelka's is to stop bullying in the school. Recently Sand Creek implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a program that involves the entire school, including students, employees and staff, in bully prevention. Zelka was a huge supporter of the initiative and planned awareness events and programs for students. He said that by preventing bullying, parents are able to steer students in a more constructive path.