“We have a shortage of at least 20 classroom volunteers to meet the needs of students and teachers in the Mesa Public Schools,” according to Mike Beardslee, Program Director for Your Experience Counts. YEC provided 39 volunteers to support nine Mesa elementary schools last year, but “Principals have requested nearly 20 more for 2017-2018,” Beardslee stated.
YEC, a program of HandsOn Greater Phoenix, is in its 12th year of training and placing volunteers in classrooms in five Phoenix area school districts – Mesa, Balsz, Osborn, Washington and Dysart. Last year, nearly 100 volunteers served 3100 students in 23 schools.
The typical role and background of volunteers have shifted in recent years. “Typically, our volunteers have been retirees from business, military and education,” Beardslee reported. “However, we have recently welcomed stay-at-home moms, college students and winter visitors to provide support for underserved schools.” The program volunteers initially supported reading interventions for students. Because of large class sizes, standardized testing and curriculum needs, teachers may ask volunteers to help students with math, writing, science and most recently with STEM activities.
Monika Patel, a Scottsdale mother of two, was one of the first stay-at-home mothers to become a YEC volunteer. She will be serving as a volunteer in Mesa Public Schools for her third year. “I enjoyed working at my daughters’ school,” Patel explained, “but realized that their classrooms were filled with kids blessed to have involved parents. I thought that with my schedule I could donate time to serve children and schools with greater needs.” Patel, who has a finance background and still works part-time, supports students in the 3rd grade at Ishikawa. “I assist several hours a week working with small groups or one-on-one depending on the needs of the teacher. I have helped with math, reading and language arts. The kids are bright, energetic, and eager to learn.”
YEC volunteers serve in grades three-six and receive extensive training and orientation in curriculum, instruction and classroom management before starting their assignments. They receive additional training throughout the school year. Training for Mesa volunteers is scheduled for Sept. 26-27.