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You Can’t Build a Nest Without TWIGS: AHS Parents Transcend Typical PTA

By Cadance Schmidt and Avery Stephenson

As most of us remember all too well, the COVID years left groups and communities feeling disconnected and disjointed, and the AHS community was no exception. Emerging from the pandemic, many felt a deep desire to reconnect, and not just our students and teachers, but our families as well.

Family engagement has always been a core value for Libby Cowles, Dean of Enrollment and Community Outreach and parent to two Ospreys. “Right from the beginning, our school’s success has always depended on our families–from their decision to try something different by enrolling their kids, to supporting us through their time and talents,” she shared. “Ideally, a school is a community where everyone feels included and plays an important role. Helping families connect to each other and to the school not only supports students, it also helps our whole school community thrive.”

During the spring of 2022 after successfully collaborating to help meet the lofty $150,000 fundraising goal for the new building, the Capital Campaign Parent Committee expressed an enthusiastic interest in springboarding their foundational work into a Family Engagement Group. From this enthusiasm, TWIGS was born.

The AHS tradition of extending our own bird and nest metaphors informed the acronym. Twigs are necessary to establish a strong foundation for any nest; the acronym stands for “Together We Inspire Great Students.” The group is driven by the goal of helping families feel connected to the school and each other, as reflected in their official mission: “To create meaningful connections among AHS families so that we can collectively provide social, educational and financial support for Animas High School.”

“When your kids are in elementary and middle school, you see people bringing in cupcakes all the time and chaperoning field trips and helping out with science fair, but this tends to taper off when your kids get to high school,” expressed AHS parent and passionate TWIG member Melissa Paxton. Melissa is part of a subgroup of the TWIGS that have dubbed themselves “buds” and act as steering committee of sorts, planning events and activities for the larger parent community. “We are sort of like the PTA, but more fun! While financial support is a small piece of the program, it truly is to get the parents involved with their high school students.”

Libby believes that “giving parents an opportunity to get to know other parents, makes them feel like they have a community.” A main focus for the TWIGS group has become to create a space to build camaraderie and dialogue around parenting teens. Libby continued, “The more you are involved in your kids' education, the better support you’re offering, the more you connect with other adults who are parenting teens, the less lonely you feel. Parenting teens is not always easy.” By giving parents a place to ask questions and get to know one another, it allows them to feel included and secure with the environment their child is in.

AHS parent and active “bud” Maren Bicknell connects to these sentiments, sharing: “I feel raising children takes a village and TWIGS has been a great way to connect with other parents and build a community to support my child. Also, being part of TWIGS helps me get to know teachers and staff and I feel this fosters a better team approach in educating and raising teenagers.”

Language from the TWIGS website elaborates on their mission: “At the foundation of every beautiful Osprey getting ready to soar is an intricate woven nest of twigs, creating a safe and secure environment. Even though our students are learning to be fabulously independent humans, that support is still essential to their success. As AHS is not your typical high school, TWIGS is not your typical PTA. We are creating a fun, social environment where families can connect, support our students and staff, and be a part of the AHS community at large.”

So far, the TWIGS are creating this environment through a range of activities from coffee chats and happy hours to book clubs and guided hikes. Parents and involved community members offer up their skills and expertises to facilitate activities and initiatives, such as an upcoming yoga series and a teen mental health workshop. They are also developing ways to achieve the “support our students and staff” part of their mission by coordinating parent volunteers, teacher appreciation efforts, family outreach and continued fundraising.

To learn more and check out upcoming events, or to get involved with TWIGS, please visit


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