School volunteers donate $58,000 in services

How to help
There are almost as many ways to volunteer as there are students.

Parent-teacher associations meet regularly to determine school needs and find ways to meet them.

Some prefer to help by chaperoning a school trip or making decorations for a play or dance. Others like direct involvement with students, Gooch said.

Book Buddies are volunteers who meet regularly with students identified by teachers who need extra reading time. Book Buddies work with students one-on-one weekly or bi-weekly and follow guidelines and curriculums set by the teacher.

Other volunteers support athletics and band by selling concessions at games and other money-making activities.

Some follow a personal passion for a subject and guide students into forming a club. Gooch said two men who work full time are into gaming and started a middle school club where students create their own games.

Florence Bakke is Fluvanna’s Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) coordinator for its Friends in Schools Helping (FISH) program. Bakke works closely with Gooch to connect those who want to volunteer in Fluvanna schools.

“JABA is a recruiting tool. We get a lot of volunteers through the JABA website,” Bakke said. “FISH volunteers have to commit to serving one hour a week for a year.”
Volunteers who enter Fluvanna schools through JABA must complete a day-long training. All volunteers are interviewed and must pass a background check, Gooch said.
“No matter what the volunteers are doing, they advance knowledge,” Gooch said. “If they are in the library shelving books, they free up time for the librarian to help students. It all works to the benefit of the kids.”

Bakke said volunteers have many avenues they can use. She loves working with older students on math.
“I think they all need a little love,” Bakke said.

What volunteers say
Burt Marks has been helping seventh grade clarinet and saxophone players for three months. It’s the first time he’s used his own musical talent to volunteer in schools.

“A musical proficiency is needed and playing those instruments helps me to check their instruments and to improve their technique,” Marks said. “It’s nice to see how these inexperienced musicians improve their capability.”

Kim Bassing is a weekly second grade Book Buddy to three “awesome” young men at Central Elementary.

Bassing first started volunteering through the FISH program. She was an old hat at volunteering, having helped in the classroom, as a library assistant, Girl Scout leader and Dance Company program coordinator when her own children were young.

She’s been volunteering in Fluvanna for four years.

“I don’t need my background to volunteer in my current role, but past experiences do help with relating to different student experiences and backgrounds and in devising way to work with each student according to his or her own interests and personality,” Bassing said.

Bassing said she’s seen volunteers from varied backgrounds do outstanding jobs in the schools.

She loves what she does.

“I enjoy the connection with young folks in our community, the stories they tell, and sharing my own love of reading, writing, and learning,” she said. “I find I learn new things from my students as well, and it’s fun to sometimes see them out with their families, and as they grow into young adults. I am grateful for adults who shared their time and talents with me growing up, and I hope I can bring that same positive experience to the students I have the chance to work with.  Some of them have shared challenging life situations with me, and I hope it helps to have adults who listen and share experiences and skills through education. As adults, we sometimes get caught up in the stresses and routines of daily life, and working with children can remind you of the curiosity and wonder of learning new things.“

Meg Gore is in her second year as a Book Buddy at Central Elementary. Gore explained how the program works.

“The Book Buddy program is very structured with reading, writing and word recognition activities,” she said. “Volunteers receive a personalized folder prepared each week for each student by the school reading specialist. Volunteers interact with one student at a time, following the folder materials in a session that lasts 30 minutes.”

Gore said meeting her buddies and getting to know them over the school year is a treat.

“You are reminded how special and unique each child is,” Gore said. “My experience has been very positive, not only because of the students and the reading specialist, but also because of the teachers of my buddies, the school staff and the volunteer coordinator. It is a pleasant experience from start to finish.”

Karen Sheffron started with the FISH program two years ago and works in the middle school with the Spanish teacher Rebecca Smith, who she’s known for 15 years. Sheffron used to be a substitute teacher in Charlottesville.

“I enjoy getting the children to make a connection with the Spanish language, Spanish artists and art as well trying to motivate them and expand their thinking about career possibilities when they know another language,” she said.

Principals and teachers
Several teachers and administrators offered words in praise of their volunteers.

Carol O’Dell, reading specialist at Central, said, “I am very fortunate to work with some wonderful community volunteers that support our Book Buddy program. These caring individuals make a positive connection with our students as they work to strengthen reading and writing skills.”

“My FISH volunteer discusses her career as a bilingual secretary at the United Nations (UN) and talks about a myriad of other language-based opportunities in the work force,” said Rebecca Smith, Spanish teacher at the middle school. “Many of her peers later worked for the FBI or CIA. Her dream to work at the UN started young and together we hope to inspire our young Flucos to ‘dare to imagine’ themselves as ambassadors, bilingual journalists or international attorneys. Our volunteers bring the world and its opportunities to us.”

Rachel Burkett, instructional technology resource teacher, said, “The volunteers for the Fluco Game Designer Club make a difference because we can interact with the students more. I’ve loved having them to bounce ideas off of and having more adults for the students to interact with. Without them, Fluco Game Designers would not have been as successful as it has been.”

“Our volunteers mean the world to us at Fluvanna Middle School (FMS),” said Brad Stang, FMS principal. “They step in and fill many roles for us through the giving of their own time, care, and concern for our school community. FMS volunteers truly make a world of difference by showing up, helping, and caring.”

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