This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Spring 2011 Edition
Last year close to 800 volunteers supported the different events and programs at Harker and there are probably 50 at the three campuses on any given school day, said Teré Aceves, director of K-8 volunteer programs.
Volunteers help out in some highly visible places, like staffing event venues, but most of the effort is behind the scenes; one is apt to spot a dedicated helper assisting in classrooms and libraries, chaperoning field trips, supporting extracurricular programs like performing arts, athletics and debate, and holding down a multitude of critical positions at big fundraisers like the Harker Family and Alumni Picnic and the annual Harker Fashion Show (see page 18). They also help at community building events such as Grandparents’ Day (coming up this year on May 6; see page X for details).
“Our extraordinary parent volunteers also organize a range of community events after school hours and on weekends, from three day camping trips to museum tours, movie nights, coffees, lunches and play-dates in the park,” said Aceves.
Volunteers are deeply appreciated at Harker, and in recent months a support system for K-8 volunteers was introduced to offer immediate assistance and advice, and represent volunteer interests.
“For example,” said Aceves, “for Lunar New Year this year, parents from the grade 3 class have worked very closely with grade level coordinators and me to give the third graders a truly authentic cultural experience. They arranged to have authentic food, decorations, kids’ activities and the highlight – a specially invited group of young dancers to perform a traditional Chinese dance.”
Volunteers are a special group and Aceves notes the hidden value of being a volunteer. “There is a special bond that mothers and fathers make with the students when they volunteer,” she said. “I have observed how proud the children are to see their moms or dads. When our parents volunteer in the classroom they are touching dozens of lives in a unique way, not to mention creating memorable experiences for all the students; this is a value that cannot be purchased.”
Sue Prutton, director of volunteer programs at the upper school, added, “Volunteers also have a wonderful opportunity to get to know fellow parents and staff members, often building strong friendships that can last beyond their time with Harker.”
Volunteers are just as often working parents as not. “I have a parent who is there for the program every time I need a volunteer, and she works full time,” Aceves said. “We have a group of parents with very busy schedules and huge work responsibilities who are still happy to come and write thank you notes early in the morning, before they go to work.”
New volunteers are always welcome, said Aceves. Along with the aforementioned activities, volunteers can help with morning drop offs at the middle school and with the annual middle school cancer walk, to name just two. Parent volunteers are always needed at the upper school to support programs like robotics, debate, JCL, performing arts and athletics as well as division wide opportunities like the mentor and ambassador programs. “The great thing is that if parents would like to volunteer and have a particular interest or expertise, we can usually match that interest to a volunteer activity,” said Aceves. “It gives them an extra reward and sense of satisfaction for the use of their time.
“Volunteers bring an incredible value and energy to events as they work tirelessly behind the scenes to support our community building and fundraising efforts. It is all about the personal touch. At Harker we are extremely thankful for every second and every thought that any of our volunteers have given to benefit thousands of students.”
This year’s volunteer workshops, to create awareness of opportunities and to invite new parents to get involved, will be held at the middle school campus on April 14 for lower school volunteers and April 29 for middle and upper school volunteers. “We will have a panel of volunteers representing the various volunteer opportunities at the school and volunteers can sign up for programs they are interested in,” said Aceves.
Aceves and Prutton send out their gratitude to all volunteers. “We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support of our school and our children, also we would like to encourage everyone to be part of their children’s life at school. It does not need to be a monthly or a weekly commitment; it can be as flexible as you need. No experience is required and you will have a lot of support!”