Lisa S. McCusker of Gautier has been selected Parent of the Year 2020 by the Mississippi Department of Education.
Earlier this year she was selected as Parent of the Year for Gautier High School. The Pascagoula-Gautier School District then chose her to be the District Parent of the Year representative and submitted her information to the State Department of Education who then reviewed candidates from each congressional district.
McCusker has been a long-time parent volunteer for GHS/PGSD serving on numerous committees and boards, such as the GHS PTO, the PGSD Parent Advisory Board, the PGSD Strategic Planning (Arts) Committee, and served as Organizer & Vice President and President of Gautier Middle School Support Team and as Executive Board Secretary at Gautier Middle School for “Shae’s Place 2” After-School Ministry, just to name a few.
She considers her most challenging, most rewarding ‘project’ within a school has been serving within the GHS Band Parent Association (booster club). And since that time she helped to revitalize the band program. In addition to serving as President of the GHS Band Parent Association, she organized fundraising and supervised the affairs of the boosters and activities working with the band directors and treasurer. She also performed additional duties such as marketing/branding via social media for events and activities of the GHS band. She even organized and executed the Inaugural Swamp Classic Marching Band Festival & Competition held at the school.
McCusker is a firm believer in volunteerism, especially within a school atmosphere where the focus is on the students and the end result.
“It’s never about me or what could benefit me. It’s always about sharing love and support with students to show them how to love and support others down the road. The blessings brought to me along the way is just gravy. There’s nothing that tickles me more than watching kids have a good time together in a safe atmosphere knowing they are surrounded by adults who truly care about them. That’s when the joy really overflows,” McCusker said.
Recently, the bulk of her service has been supporting students and parents by increasing parent involvement in areas where help is needed. She’s passionate about clear communications between families and school administration and teachers.
“We have to get back to listening to both sides and finding a way to move forward together for the betterment of our youth.”
McCusker’s inspiration and motivation stems from a personal tragedy of losing her nephew to suicide when he was 16.
“My son had just been born three months prior. I vowed then that I would never again let a child cross my path without feeling loved and valued. Every child has God-given talent. It’s up to us as adults to help them discover it and use it for good in this world.”
She gives it her all, balancing her time between family, work, and volunteering.
“Sometimes I can be physically there, but other times I can donate items or funds to help provide for needs of the club or activity. Sometimes I can help by providing a contact that can help meet a need. It all comes down to willingness to support. It’s important for parents to share their ability specifically with their school team. This enables the teachers and staff to know a comfort or ability level and allows for better communication of needs when a time arises.”
McCusker has some eye-opening words of advice for parents who may wonder whether their time volunteering is worth it.
“The window into your child’s world will close quickly. Getting involved in their school gives you an inside view that’s priceless. You’ll know who their friends are, how they interact, and you’ll get to know other great parents who are walking similar paths. Take a look at how you can be present in their world, then plug in. It’s never too late, and they’re never too old for you to be there. And they’ll look back and really appreciate those times they saw you supporting them.”
Asked about the award, McCusker said, “I was a bit shocked to say the least. This was not something I expected or even considered. I’m honored to represent parents across the state who go above and beyond to support students in their community.”
McCusker also expresses gratitude and appreciation for her fellow MDE recognized parents – Kate Otis Farabaugh, Mark Davis, Jr., and Melissa Hester – and is honored to be in their company.
“I pray we are encouraging others to use their talents for good, to get involved where it counts most, to be invested in our children and youth.
McCusker lives in Gautier and is the parent of John-Micheal, a college freshmen, and Aidan, high school junior.