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Volunteers help make education manageable

Volunteers help make education manageable

October 25, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

After walking her children to Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown each school day, Barbara Remington sticks around and helps out at the school as a volunteer wherever she is needed.

"I walk a mile over here. What is the use of walking back home if there are things I can do here?" Remington, 42, said. Besides, she asked, why not work at the school attended by two of her three children?

In recent interviews, administrators at school systems throughout the Tri-State area said they could always use more volunteers in the schools.

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A volunteer does not need to have skills in working with children or be able to commit to working every week, the administrators said.

While there is always a need for volunteers of any age, race or gender to do tutoring and mentoring, that is just one of many tasks volunteers can do, said Marie Martin, the Washington County Public School's family and community partnership specialist.

As a school volunteer, Remington said she has done everything from clerical work to standing in for a teacher monitoring students on the playground.

When Remington's children finish their school day, so does - she and they walk home together, she said.

Volunteers like Remington make the jobs of school employees more manageable, said Michele Petro, the family community partnership coordinator for the school.

Each of the nine Title I schools in the Washington County system, including Bester, has a family community partnership coordinator whose job duties include recruiting and organizing volunteers, Martin said.

At Bester, volunteers do not even need to step foot in the school to help out: Work can be sent home with students, Petro said. Volunteers can then do whatever work they offered to do, which can range from cooking to stapling, and then send the finished product back with their children, she said.

Bester volunteer Michelle Riedle said that as a school volunteer, she also does a variety of odd jobs - the most unusual being walking a goat that was being used in a school lesson.

"I enjoy it. I would rather be up here doing something than be bored," said Riedle, who holds two other jobs in addition to doing the volunteer work at the school.

Petro said it is not just the school employees that notice their efforts: The volunteers' children love knowing their parents are involved at the school.

"It goes beyond just helping a child read or putting mail in a box. People care about each other. These girls (Remington and Riedle) are perfect examples of completing the circle," Petro said.

At the start of each school year, Petro sends a form home to parents asking if they would like to volunteer and what they would enjoy doing, Petro said.

Bester, which has an enrollment of about 560 students, had 65 volunteers putting in a total of 802 hours during August and September, Petro said.

Some volunteers help in the classroom while others work in the mail room and still others assist with maintenance, she said.

The number of volunteers in the schools varies, but generally about 12 to 35 percent of families in those nine schools has a family member doing school volunteer work, Martin said.

There are fewer volunteers in the county middle and high schools, but the demand for their help is still there, North Hagerstown High School Principal Robert "Bo" Myers said.

Parents who volunteer in their child's elementary school often lose interest in helping out when the student progresses to middle and high schools, Myers said. Besides, students at that age may not want their parents to be at the school, he said.

Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District, said the school system accepts volunteers to do a variety of tasks in the schools. Anyone wishing to volunteer should call the school that would be most convenient for them to serve, Michael said.

The volunteers then meet with the principal of that school to decide what work the volunteer will do, which can range from working in the cafeteria to reading to children, he said.

Jaimee Borger, director of media services for Berkeley County Schools, said volunteers in the schools will do clerical work, go on field trips as chaperones and read to students, among other work.

Riedle has this to say to anyone debating whether to be a school volunteer: "Try it. If you do not like it, you can walk out. But I am telling you, you are going to stay."

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