Tuesday, May 14, 2019

My Monthly Column – May 2019

School Volunteers an Invaluable Resource
By Xavier Botana

At the Portland Public Schools, we recently calculated the estimated dollar value of our volunteers’ contributions to our schools. It’s an astounding school year total of $1.7 million.

In reality, however, the true value of our volunteers adds up to far more than that. In short, our volunteers are priceless.

This month, I want to honor and acknowledge the contributions our volunteers make to support Portland Public Schools students, staff and families. Our volunteers help make a difference and build stronger communities.

No job is too big or too small for our volunteers. They may read one-on-one with kids, coach basketball, mentor students, chaperone a school dance or field trip, assist with our walking school bus, plant a garden, tutor students for the SAT, laminate teaching materials, raise money for PTAs, collect gate receipts at sports events, and/or inspire students to reach for their dreams.

We currently have about 2,500 volunteers, contributing an average of 7,422 hours per month. According to the Independent Sector, a coalition of charities, foundations, corporations and individuals that provides information on the estimated dollar value of volunteer time, the national value of each volunteer hour is $25.43. For Maine, the value is estimated at $23.12 per hour, which for our district translates to a monthly average contribution of $171,597 – or $1.7 million per school year.

But the true impact of their service is even greater.  Whether they’re parents supporting their children and schools, community experts, retired mentors or other volunteers, the Portland Public Schools would not be able to do everything we do for our students without volunteers. They teach so many lessons.

For example, Lincoln Middle School social studies teacher Alice Shea says a volunteer in her classroom “has helped students to build relationships with other caring adults in the community. Additionally, the support he provides as another literacy and writing coach is immeasurable.”

Deering High School math teacher Steve Rogers says, “Having professionals in to reinforce skills that are necessary in the adult world helps my students to make more meaning of their work in school.”

Many volunteers are students’ parents. Deering parent Kathy Buxton explains why she volunteers: “I think it’s important to be an involved parent. I know my children’s teachers, coaches, school administrators and teammates and they know me … I like to give back and hopefully I’m setting an example for my own kids to follow.”

Others are community members contributing their time, talent, and skills.

Allen Armstrong, a retired mechanical engineer, volunteers at our Portland Arts & Technology High School (PATHS), in the Manufacturing Technology program. He says, “Helping young people learn some new ways of solving problems, and perhaps earn a living, seems to be one of the most rewarding ways of [utilizing my skills] ... I’ve advised on machine setups, use of solid modeling (CAD), and engineering careers. I’ve designed and documented projects for the students, and repaired machine tools. Sharing my enthusiasm for all these things with students who are eager to learn is immensely satisfying.”

If you too are willing to share your time, talent and enthusiasm, please join our amazing group of  volunteers. Go to the “Community Engagement” tab on our website, www.portlandschools.org or to: https://www.portlandschools.org/community/support_our_schools

We strive to help our students become involved citizens. Our Whole Student goal says: “All PPS students will develop the skills, habits and mindsets they need to engage in and contribute to our diverse city and ever-changing world.” Our volunteers are outstanding exemplars of this goal that our students see in everyday life. Thank you to our great volunteers!