Andalusia school volunteers: Program is rewarding

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 8, 2010

With the school year complete, Andalusia Volunteers in Schools (VIS) program coordinator Marrianne DuBose said she’s pleased with how the program went overall.

“We ended up with a little more than 70 volunteers,” she said. “That’s how many have qualified. The program was a huge success. We hope to be able to offer it to the city schools again next year.”

The program’s initial goal was to have about 75 volunteers.

DuBose said while that many have qualified to work in the school system, not all have had the opportunity.

“We are thrilled with the amount of volunteers we have,” she said.

Of the volunteers who have had the opportunity to work with students and teachers, they all say they have experienced good times.

Janet Wofford said she has been “volunteering” in the schools for about 16 years, but joined VIS when it was established.

“My oldest child is a senior at the University of Alabama, and I started volunteering when she was in kindergarten,” she said.

Wofford said she has volunteered at the high school and has helped several seniors with remediation for the graduation exam; helped a senior with a research paper and helped in the art department.

“I helped a senior with his research project,” she said. “We did everything from research, writing and a powerpoint presentation.”

Wofford said she helped in Joni Brannon’s art classes by helping mount all the students’ work.

“I also helped (Brannon) with the recent art show,” she said.

While volunteers can help out whenever they are available, Wofford said she volunteered around 15 hours in the fall semester and 35 to 40 hours in the spring.

Wofford said there are many benefits to volunteering in the schools

“The teachers really appreciate it because they are stretched so thin,” she said. “I think it is important for all parents to be involved; it shows your kids you care; and you know what’s going on at school.

“It’s also important for those kids who don’t have people to listen to them read or do flash cards with them,” she said. “Nothing is more important than making a contribution, especially for those borderline students – a little help and encouragement can make all the difference in the world.”

Regina Bass also volunteered when her younger children were in school.

“I like to assist and be involved,” Bass said. “I appreciate getting to be in the class with my child. I like the closeness of knowing her class.”

Bass primarily helped out in Suzanne Cotton’s first grade class by helping children with their reading.

“We also worked on spelling and handwriting,” she said. “One little girl worked and worked and made an “A” on her spelling test. When she saw me, she ran and gave me a hug. It’s very rewarding, but it makes you respect school teachers.”

Bass said people shouldn’t look at it as an added assignment to their week, but that it’s helping out the schools.

Volunteer Janet Beste said she feels she got more out of her volunteer work than the students did.

“It was absolutely my honor working with these children and Mrs. Searcy,” Beste said. “Mrs. Searcy said the students benefited from someone being there. I know I gained more from it than they did. I fell in love with everyone I worked with. I just loved walking around the halls seeing others students. I thought it was wonderful. I recommend it to anyone.”

“I think it would be great for parents and even grandparents,” Bass said.

Not only is it a potential community service for parents and grandparents, but also for businesses and college sports teams, as well.

“Superior Bank and the Southeast Alabama Gas District have agreed to have their employees go through the program,” DuBose said. “We plan to use them in the first part of next school year to provide assistance to teachers.

“The Saints softball team wants to try to work with VIS in the fall,” she said.

DuBose said the program will kick off a recruitment program prior to the opening of school.

Volunteers must participate in a 30-minute orientation and have a background check.

“Once you’ve gone through the process you’re good to go for the next school year,” DuBose said.