During a child’s elementary school years, it’s easy to see how you might fit in: donate supplies, teach a small group, be a reading buddy, help with the book fair, set up for the Valentine’s party. The choices in elementary are many and sometimes less intimidating than when your child moves on to middle or intermediate school. The kids are smaller. The instruction is simpler. The overall climate feels warmer.
Then your little one graduates and while they are asking themselves all summer long, “Where will I fit in?” – you find yourself wondering the exact same thing.
Heidi Dickinson, Tumwater School District
Black Hills High School parent volunteer, Heidi Dickinson, describes one of the most challenging parts of making the volunteer transition from elementary to secondary.
“As my daughters got older, they weren’t as excited to have me hanging around the school. I get that, though. I was young once, too. That just meant I had to think more creatively about other ways I could help.”
Heidi uses her daughters’ interests to guide her choices in when and where to volunteer. That means you might find her chaperoning choir competitions, working the concession stand during volleyball games or even just donating her time.
“This year, Heidi helped us kick of the year right by cleaning up our front landscaping,” shared Black Hills High School principal, Dave Myers. “We love it when we get to work with our students’ parents in the school setting and there are so many roles for them to take, even in high school. We are always looking for parents that can help tutor students, for example, especially in math. Other opportunities are being a mentor to a student, speaking in different classes about your job or life experiences, assisting with school activities and being part the school’s leadership team.”
“I have always been a parent volunteer,” explained Heidi, who began when her girls started preschool. “The most rewarding part is the relationships you develop with students, especially those you have watched grow up since elementary school. I think that education is key to a child’s success, that is why I want to help with our youth and support the schools as much as I possibly can.”
Greg Norman, Olympia School District
Greg Norman has always volunteered in his kids’ classrooms and schools, including middle school. While this is motivation enough for many parents, Greg sees his work as stemming from something bigger.
“I volunteer because it is the right thing to do. I am a parent, and that inspires me to give as much as I can to our schools, but I am also human, and that inspires me to give as much as I can to our community.”
One of Greg’s first projects at Marshall Middle School was cleaning up the green belt and developing an outdoor classroom. This year, he has taken on the enormous responsibility of volunteer coordinator. The staff and students, however, know him best because of the time he puts into the Student Store.
“Greg opens the Student Store nearly every day of the week, during both lunches and he has worked so hard to make it student friendly. His commitment to the store, and to the school is truly extraordinary,” said Marshall Middle School principal, Condee Wood.
Greg has big visions for the student store in the years to come.
“I am looking forward to finding ways to get students more involved in the day to day operations. The store presents a wonderful opportunity to teach the students about inventory, cash handling, customer service and other critical elements of business.”
“Parent volunteers are still greatly needed and valued at the middle level,” added Condee. “Though some middle school students may balk at having their guardians on campus, they secretly appreciate having that level of connection. Volunteers are needed the most at middle school for supervision (hall monitors, lunchroom monitors), help with events (running the student story, running after-school clubs, chaperoning field trips or other special events), and after-school tutoring and/or mentoring. I see great value in the presence of consistent adults on campus. Students tend to rely on adult connections with caring adults that they look forward to seeing every day. The more caring adults that are present in our kids’ lives, the better!”
Stephen Galbraith, North Thurston School District
Aspire Middle School parent volunteer, Stephen Galbraith, finds ways to support his sons’ school by giving his time and manpower to Chris Traber’s theater department.
“Stephen has volunteered so much for us,” said Chris. “Not only did he build a bridge for Oliver, but he also took on the construction of a monstrous contraption that we needed for Bye Bye Birdie. He is deserving of recognition for eternity.”
Stephen and his wife have given endless hours to distributing flyers, transporting set pieces and constructing new props, but according to Stephen, the time they put in never compares with the time and dedication the students and staff put in to each production.
“Volunteering at Aspire Middle School has been an incredible opportunity,” said Stephen, “not only to be closer to my children, but to meet some of the nicest and most committed people I have ever met. From the school administration and support staff, to the play producer and director, to Perry – a very patient man, who over the years has never once complained about the sawdust I left in the gym.”
“I truly believe we should all volunteer,” he added. “In my case, volunteering at a performing arts school, I cannot imagine a better way to get closer to so much talent and dedication. These kids are going to continue to do great things in their lives, and in the future, we will be able to say, ‘Remember when they performed…’ and as volunteers we will have the joy of knowing we contributed something positive along the way.”
Let Heidi, Greg and Stephen be your inspiration. Ask your student’s middle or high school how you help. Not a parent? Not a problem. As Greg reminded us, we volunteer because it’s the right thing to do and what better way than to give our time than to our future, our kids.