How can we make the greatest impact? It’s not a simple question,but the answer seemed clear to the United Way Women’s Leadership Circle (WLC) after a Day of Caring project connected them to needs at Saxvik Elementary.
This past August, WLC members spent a day organizing classrooms and preparing materials for the upcoming school year. “When we were there, we all felt that we were contributing something to our community and the teachers were so appreciative,” commented Teresa Chrest.
The WLC Steering Committee immediately began discussions with school officials and identified Saxvik Elementary as a place where students could benefit from adult volunteers. “Students love to work with and show adults what they’ve learned. Having the United Way Women’s Leadership Circle volunteers make connections with students has been very beneficial,” said Saxvik Elementary Principal Linnett Schmidkunz.
This volunteer opportunity aligned perfectly with a local need identified by partner agencies, donors and United Way’s Need Assessment. The assessment reported that only 29 percent of youth in Bismarck-Mandan felt they had a positive adult role model. WLC Steering Committee Vice Chair Dorothy Lick explained “A goal identified this year was to have even more contact with kids and be involved in a more hands-on way.”
“In the short time that we’ve been doing this, they’ve been able to trust me as another adult in their lives. When I come in (to the classroom) they all want to tell me how they are, what’s new in their lives. They share their lives with me, and that’s really exciting,” commented volunteer Teresa Chrest.
Twice a month, volunteers spend two hours with students. “My day of activities with the students includes going out for recess, then we have lunch, we come back and have story time, then we usually have a math assignment, and if we have time, we’ll do something with reading or an art project,” explains Chrest. “It’s a really great break from everyday life, being in an office, to see how education works and how second graders are learning. It’s fun to see them grow,” adds Lick.
Three months in, the program is proving to be a success. “The interaction is great for our students because some of them don’t get a lot of attention. This is the perfect way to introduce them to a positive role model from the community, someone who wants to read and interact with them. They work one-on-one with students. In my classroom we have the volunteers working with reading. The kids like their attentiveness and being able to see the same person from week to week,” explains second grade teacher Jessica Frank.
Yes, volunteers help students improve their school work, but, just maybe, the greatest benefit is letting kids know that someone cares. With early success and the support of local businesses, the program has been expanded to Will-Moore and Jeannette Mhyre Elementary. If you or your business are interested in sponsoring a classroom, contact email@example.com.