• April 2024 Superintendent’s Beacon article – volunteers

    Subject: Volunteers a win-win for students and adults

    As students returned from distance learning and a variety of experiences and circumstances at home, we saw an increase in behavior issues at school. While those initial behavior trends have started to calm, staff are still addressing more behavior issues than pre-pandemic levels. One success story in helping students’ behavior is having more adults at school through volunteer programs.

    Two middle schools in the district, Voyager and Olympic View, have recently added volunteer programs to engage more adult family members in students’ school experience. Voyager now has up to 10 parents come during one of the students’ lunch periods to provide more supervision at a busy social time for students. Voyager Middle School’s Family Engagement Liaison Olga Mantilla shared, “Their presence has had the exact effect we were hoping for. We have seen good improvements in behavior across all lunches and our volunteers partner with staff and interact wonderfully with our students and staff. They sometimes sit and play board games with students, stop and say hello, etc. The connection itself has made an impact.”

    At Olympic View Middle School, volunteers may participate in a program called Champions of Successful Students, or CHAMPS for short. Participating volunteers can sign up to help during student arrival time or during a lunch period. In addition to the staff seeing positive results with students, they have also received positive feedback from the volunteers. Olympic View’s Family Engagement Liaison Loren Suwana Poisel shared, “Since we started CHAMPS, the number of conflicts at school have decreased. We have a student who frequently got in trouble, that is until his dad became a CHAMPS. His dad started coming every morning.” Suwana Poisel explained that at first the student disliked the thought of his dad being at school, but his behavior changed over time, and he started to make better choices. She added, “The dad recently thanked me for creating this opportunity. He said he is excited every morning to volunteer and connect with the kids.”

    Similar programs are expanding to more schools in our district, especially at middle and high schools, where traditionally we haven’t had as many volunteers on campus during the school day. Elementary schools have opportunities too. A popular program that is making a comeback since the pandemic is the lunch buddy program in which students are paired with an adult who visits the same student during lunch each week. I volunteer to have lunch with a student at Serene Lake Elementary once a week, but the volunteer frequency is flexible. Several other staff volunteer for the lunch buddy program as well and it is open to community members.

    I am excited to see school volunteer programs expand, which means … we’ll need more volunteers! Parents or guardians often volunteer at their children’s school, but volunteer opportunities are open to community members too, even if they don’t have children in our schools. If you have about 35 minutes a week and you are interested in helping at a local school, I hope you consider volunteering. There is a brief application process that includes a background check. You can learn more and find the application materials on the district website under the Our District tab. We welcome you and I think you’ll discover that working with students is beneficial for you too.

    In gratitude to the many volunteers who help in classrooms, attend field trips, chaperone dances, and so much more, and in honor of Public School Volunteer Week April 22-26, I extend a heartfelt “thank you.” Volunteers in our schools improve student outcomes and strengthen our entire community.