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Volunteer and you just might get more than you give

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By The Staff

This week we look at Asset #6, Parent Involvement in Schooling. According to the Search Institute, “Youth are more likely to grow up healthy when their parents are involved in their education.”

Last Thursday night, I attended a school board meeting and work session. Luckily, I landed there when the school principals attended with parents who were representing advisory councils.

It was so wonderful to hear the many projects schools are doing with parents at the helm, often leading the charge. The principals were thrilled with involvement of so many, who do it for the children. They also took the opportunity to gush about their pride in accomplishing so much, holding so many events, raising so much money all in the name of life-long learning.

I don’t want to use this space this week to look at what isn’t good, but what is great and that is what small groups of people can do to help.

The meeting included information about PTO/PTA organizations, BAT teams, CAT teams, PAT teams and more. The events included math and science related events, gardening, reading, sports, game nights, specials nights and barbecues.

The middle school math department under the direction of Ms. Alladi wasn’t sure they could pull off an event for Pi Day, that’s the 3.14 definition. Alladi rallied a large group of parents to staff games, bring edible pies and serve them. A simple letter and e-mail request, netted the event everything that was needed to make it happen.

One of those needed items was pies. The request was answered tenfold. The pies came in all shapes and sizes from fruit and cream to chocolate and avocado, which, don’t worry, tasted just like key lime pie! The point is there were hundreds of pies. Every student who wanted pie ate pie. Don’t tell the seventh-graders, but there was so much pie that eighth-graders received seconds. They fed every staff member pie and from what I’ve heard many went home with pie for the weekend.

Linda Hull of the parent group at the high school remains involved in events though her kids have graduated the system. Their meetings have a great following and their secret, which I believe makes a meeting successful, is food. When I hold a meeting, I call it the wheel of snacks.

Don’t let the high school parents fool you, according to Hull there are some 180 parents involved through sports boosters, band boosters and many other clubs and organizations.

Like Hull, there are also a set of people not commonly recognized for their efforts, grandparents. Take Paula Bond. When an unexpected trip to Los Alamos had her in charge of her fifth grade grandson, she jumped in with both feet. Her first week on the job, she was volunteering in classroom parties, then headed over as a helper in the rocket club and I can’t even begin to mention her work with the Cub Scouts.

The point is that what caregivers view as important in their lives, students will view as important in their lives, too. That message translates to reading during the summer or interest in hobbies.

If you have something that interests you, see if you can bring it to the schools. If you’re successful in an area, see how you might make it a hands-on activity in the classroom. Ask a teacher if they have any thoughts on how your idea can accomplish a learning objective or benchmark for the class.

If that still doesn’t work, take the bigger leap of faith and ask your student how they would like to see you involved. Ask them what they like about other parents that help or what would make school more enjoyable for them.

If you have an interest in science, technology, engineering, math or STEM related activities, The Next Big Idea is just the project for you. It may also take you down the path to see how a large community event could translate into the classroom.

To learn more about it, check out the Chamber of Commerce website or call Jeremy Varela to find out how to get involved in the summer event.

Bernadette Lauritzen is the Assets In Action Coordinator sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce. This week, Assets In Action will sponsor a youth led Bakugan worshop at the Los Alamos Youth Activity center.  She can be heard every Monday from 9-10am on AM 1490, KRSN. You can also learn more about their community building efforts at www.AssetsInAction.info.