When we think of schools, testing, homework and recess are some of the things that most frequently come to mind. Schools are known as places of learning and making new friends.
It wasn’t until I was placed as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer coordinator at English Estates Elementary to fulfill my year of national service that I learned about all the other things that happen on campus. An outsider might never know that teaching and learning are not the only things on our school’s agenda.
Think of it this way, for every student on our campus there is also a family at home. Some are big… some small and all are very different. Our elementary school is the one place where all of these families come together, which makes English Estates a great place to get in contact with a large number of community members. In reality, English Estates is not only a school, but also a community outreach center.
Our front office has more information on community programs than anyone would expect. There are pamphlets and flyers for initiatives such as the 21st Century after-school program, Earned Income Tax Credit, Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), United Way 2-1-1 crisis hotline and so much more.
There are also weekly initiatives to assist families, like the Bags of Hope program on Thursdays. Students going through a transition receive a bag of groceries to take home for the weekend, as well as some one-on-one counseling from experienced volunteers. I coordinate United Way’s Together for Tomorrow program to promote volunteerism among community members to come work with our students as mentors and tutors.
Since joining the English Estates Elementary team, I have a newfound appreciation for schools. I realize now that becoming involved with a local school does much more than help students reach their academic goals. Volunteering at a school means volunteering for your community, which is something we should all strive to do.
Submitted by Stefany Stanbury. Stanbury is a Together for Tomorrow VISTA member serving at English Estates Elementary in Seminole County.