by Anne Gibson

Acacia Elementary School’s Volunteer of the Year Cassie Hirschberg reads to Amber Hancock, age 10, and Addison Hirschberg, age 8, while Acacia Volunteer Coordinator Christine Hancock looks on.  Volunteers are a valued part of all Vail schools and all grade levels.  Photo by Anne Gibson

There are many different types of volunteer opportunities in the Vail School District (VSD) every day helping students in their own way. “School safety is on everyone’s mind today. When students hear the news reports and our conversations, they must wonder if their school is a safe and caring place. The presence and attention of our many volunteers must certainly be a source of comfort and assurance to them,” said VSD Superintendent Calvin Baker as he spoke of the many different ways adults could volunteer.

Most people do not realize the elected members of the VSD governing board  – President Jon Aitken, Clerk Allison Pratt, and Member-at-Large Claudia Anderson, Mark Tate, and Callie Tippett, are volunteers receiving no compensation for their hours of service to the district and its students.

There are volunteers who sit on the site council of every school advising the school’s principal. There are fifty volunteer members of the Vail Pride Day committee that give hours to make the annual program a success.

This January an open invitation was extended via social media to residents of the VSD to participate in researching and making a recommendation to the governing board of their suggested solution when Vail reaches its maximum capacity of high school students. Some100 people accepted the invitation to volunteer to attend a series of meetings over a three-month period.

The most popular form of volunteering is at a specific school. “The Volunteer Coordinator role is key in facilitating volunteerism at each of our sites from community members, parents, grandparents, businesses, non-profits, and beyond. Our Volunteer Coordinators are positive and driven individuals who help to recruit volunteers into our sites and connect them with various opportunities to serve our students,” said VSD Community Liaison Heather Stough, as she spoke proudly of all 19 schools in the VSD having a Volunteer Coordinator who works 20-hours a week. As a side note she stated that most Volunteer Coordinators began as volunteers.

Ann Dreeland reared her girls and volunteered in their schools. When her youngest went off to college, she found herself with nowhere to be for the first time in 20 years. She connected at Sycamore Elementary School located in Corona de Tucson and has been an avid supporter of the Reading Buddies and Reading Heroes programs ever since. Reading Buddies is the less structured of the two allowing volunteers to arrange a one-hour time to come in and read to two students. Reading Heroes is more structured with a full class reading a teacher assigned book and then answering questions on the computer regarding what was read.

Kayla Brooks serves as Volunteer Coordinator at Desert Willow Elementary School in Rita Ranch. Some of the volunteer opportunities at Desert Willow include helping students work on their reading with the Reading Hero’s Program and Head Sprout, going into the classroom, and helping teachers file papers, working with students at centers, and chaperoning field trips. They also assist with events from judging Science Fair projects and Reading Boards, to helping time Mileage Club Races, or working a station at the Annual Field Day. Volunteers also help with Book Fairs, Picture Days, PTA Activities, Make a Difference Day, and Red Ribbon Week activities. Kayla was a Site Council member at Desert Willow and on the board of the Desert Willow PTA before becoming the Volunteer Coordinator four years ago.

Cienega High School Volunteer Coordinator Amy Burton continually searches for new volunteers to serve at Cienega High School and is anxious to put you to work. She provides volunteer opportunities with the Cienega parent teacher organization (CatFRAT), the student incentive, and staff appreciation programs, Bobcats Helping Bobcats, Bobcat Student of Success, the Backpack Program, and fundraising. Amy Burton also provides tours to prospective new students and their families.

There is a Volunteer Coordinator at each of Vail’s 19 schools waiting to talk to you about their school’s volunteer needs and how to apply.  Pick up the phone and call school of interest today to begin the rewarding adventure of volunteering.

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Anne Gibson