The Importance of Volunteering

“Our nation will succeed or fail to the degree that all of us citizens and businesses alike are active participants in building strong, sustainable and enriching communities”.
— Arnold Hiatt

We talk often at Southwest Charter School about the importance of volunteering.  Our teachers depend on parent volunteers for a variety of things, including working in class with small groups and chaperoning field trips and off site work.  Volunteers work in the office and fill in at the front desk allowing Kathy to work in the classrooms with the students.  Volunteers fill the positions on the Board of Directors.  They spend their evenings setting up temporary computer labs or painting, pressure washing and helping prepare classrooms.  Volunteers organize and run our annual auction, which is our single biggest fundraiser of the year.  They bring the community together for parties, dances and coffees.  They feed the teachers during conferences.  In short, they are the lifeblood of SWCS.    I truly believe that Southwest Charter School cannot fulfill its vision without our volunteers.

We are advocates for small schools. We believe our small school is not simply within the community, it defines our community. We believe all children can experience success when they have the freedom to learn through exploration and interaction with their community. We aim to set high expectations for our students, and to constantly strive to improve the overall quality of their learning experience. (www.swcharter.org/aboutus/aboutourschool)

In 2011/2012 volunteers logged over 2500 hours.   For every hour that you gave last year a student received greater personal attention from his or her teacher, special field study experience, opportunities for art education and field trips, a cleaner classroom, a new playground to enjoy and so much more.  If you logged a single hour last year thank you!  You truly made a difference and I hope we can continue to work together this year.

For those of you who are new to the SWCS family, or new to volunteering, I say welcome!  I hope you will find it as rewarding as I do.  As a little extra motivation I will share my own top five reasons I volunteer at SWCS:

  1. I have a chance to get to know my son’s friends.  It’s always good to be able to put a face to the name when your child tells you about their day.
  2. I have the opportunity to make friends of my own!  Honestly, if I hadn’t started volunteering when Paulo was in 1st grade I might not have the amazing, supportive people in my life I do today.
  3. I lighten the load for the incredible teachers that my son is so lucky to have.  Someday he will look back and realize how fortunate he was to be a student at SWCS.
  4. I feel happy when I leave.  Whether I’ve spent 30 minutes making copies or all day at the auction, I feel happier when I leave than I did when I arrived.
  5. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, I’m modeling civic involvement.  I believe it is important for my son to take an active role in his community and right now, his community is SWCS.  Later it will expand to high school, college and ultimately the world at large.  I want him to understand that life is what you make it and if you want to make it great then often you have to put in some extra hours to make it happen.

Those are just some of the reasons I make it a point to volunteer at our school.  As an added bonus, I know my son is proud of the work that I do and-at least for now-is happy to see me in his classroom!

If you’re new to our school and just getting started volunteering here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Fill out and turn in your volunteer interest form and background check to the office.
  • Log your hours.  There is a volunteer sign in sheet at Kathy’s desk and one in the office.  Please make sure you sign in and out when you volunteer in the classroom, office, on field trips or for any special events.  You will record the date and time, print your name and specify why you are volunteering.  We will take those sheets and input the data into a spreadsheet so we can track volunteer hours.  We can utilize that information when applying for grants and seeking corporate matching opportunities, it is vital that we have as accurate an accounting as possible.  Remember to log your off site hours too, if you’re meeting in a committee or working on an event, that counts, but we can’t count it if you don’t log it!
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes before your volunteer shift starts.  That gives you time to find the sign in sheet, use the restroom and catch up with other parents or staff.
  • Stash your cell phone.  When you are volunteering it is important to stay focused on the task at hand.  If you’re answering emails or responding to texts while chaperoning a field trip you’re missing out on the opportunity to connect with the kids and community.
  • If you’re driving for a field trip, make sure that the office has a copy of your license and proof of insurance.
  • Make sure we have your email address!  We’re using the web based program, Sign Up Genius, to make it easier than ever to volunteer for school wide events.  Your teachers will have other ways to get in touch with you but if it’s a FOSWCS event that needs your talents you should watch for an email invitation.
  • Think before you commit.  It’s ok to say no, not this time.  We need energetic volunteers to make all of our events happen but we need those energetic volunteers to be truly honest with themselves about how much time they have to give.  Maybe you can’t work Run for the Arts this year, but you know you can help in January with a potluck; just know we appreciate any time you can give.  Manage your time and commitments to minimize burn out.
  • Have fun!  Spending time in the classroom, on field trips or working on a committee or at an event should be fun for our volunteers.  When it ceases to be fun then we need to talk about what we can do to make it better for you because we really cannot do it without you.

I know these busy, school filled days will be over before I know it and I believe I will miss them.  I’m grateful I will have my memories of time spent volunteering at SWCS to cherish forever.  How about you?  What memories will you make this year?   Jump in and join the fun, you will never regret the time you spend making a difference in the world.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the PTO, email foswcs@swcharter.org to ensure you are on the mailing list for announcements and opportunities.  You can also follow this blog https://friendsofswcharter.com/ to stay up to date on what’s coming up and how you can help.

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