Community, Education

The Value of Volunteering

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In Broward County, 324 schools provide an educational setting for 271,517 students. Comprising most of the enrollment is 96,000-plus students in grades K-5 and nearly 71,000 students in high schools. From a national perspective, 3.5 million teachers in 131,000 schools teach in excess of 55 million students. Large class sizes and overworked teachers are common, but parents that volunteer are valuable assets, especially when many schools face budget cuts, staff reductions, and diminished resources.

Most schools are beneficiaries of some form of parental contributions, and their involvement—not only at the school—but also in their child’s education is a huge advantage to both.

In most cases, high student standards and test scores gauge the success of a school. Studies show that involved parents help students achieve higher grades and they concentrate more on their future educational goals. With a balance of quality teachers and parental volunteers, many schools nationwide report fewer behavioral issues and better attendance.

“Parents are the main volunteers at Forest Glen Middle School, although we do have established educational partnerships,” said Robyne Friedland, mother of two sons educated at that school. “Parents volunteer mostly for electives selected by their child, such band, chorus, or drama. They are also very involved in sports, cheerleading, PTA/SAC, student government, and the honor society.”

According to Friedland, parents of middle school children are not usually in the classroom, but they do help with teacher-run clubs and electives. “From helping to transport instruments for a performance to fundraising, parents play a big role,” she said.

At Riverglades Elementary School in Parkland, where more than 600 students are enrolled in grades pre-K through 5, volunteers assist in classrooms when requested and also serve as room moms. “Our volunteers do whatever is needed to lighten the load on the teachers,” said Pamela Ofstein, former president of the school’s PTA. “They also volunteer for school parties, help chaperone on field trips, and assist the PTA with other special events.”

Volunteers at Riverglades have the flexibility of working remotely from home. “They help with donations with Partners in Education, email local businesses and when needed, visit businesses to help promote partnerships with the school,” Ofstein said. “Volunteering doesn’t always have to be in-house, and that’s a big benefit when it comes to flexibility.” High school students may also volunteer (with approval) at middle schools and receive community service hours for their efforts.

Many teachers pay as much as $500 of their own money to cover the expense of keeping their classrooms stocked with essentials. Volunteers run time-consuming errands to purchase paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, and other needed items. “Their willingness to pitch in is definitely a big help, whether it’s going for supplies, transporting instruments to a performance, or fundraising,” Friedland said.

The contributions of volunteers are extremely valuable in many areas, and their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. “The teachers and administration truly appreciate the volunteers—as do the clubs and electives because a lot of time the effort they put in helps sustain those programs,” commented Friedland. “In appreciation of our volunteers—and the several thousand combined hours they put in—the PTA along with the administration, organizes an annual recognition breakfast.” At Riverglades, the PTA tracks volunteer hours for the year and recognizes those that have more than 200 or more hours of service.

All volunteer candidates must be approved by Broward County Public Schools. Candidates must sign up online at the Broward County School Board website and provide all information requested and agree to a criminal background check. Once administration approval is received, an ID photo badge is issued and volunteers must check in at the front office prior to receiving their assigned tasks.

Volunteering is an essential part of today’s educational environment and it can be done on a flexible schedule, regardless of task. The hours contributed benefit the school, the student, and the volunteer.

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