Parent Spotlight: Shontay McClam, Volunteer at The U School

Posted on April 2, 2018
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Categories: Featured FACEs

Shontay McClam has been a parent volunteer at The U School, located in North Philadelphia, for just a few months, but she already loves volunteering and being at The U School.

The U School is a high school in the District’s Innovation Network that opened in 2014, funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation in New York. The school’s purpose is to “re-imagine schools to prepare youth for college and career,” according to school’s website.  The U School is dedicated to learning through a hands-on approach and “tangible performance tasks.” Ms. McClam was fascinated by this new and creative learning model and decided to enroll her daughter, Latanya Graham, who is currently in the tenth grade.

The U School Logo

Ms. McClam already had a passion for volunteering before her daughter started at The U School this year.  She volunteered at her daughter’s previous school and tries to volunteer at her son’s school as well. She knew when her daughter started at The U School she’d definitely be willing to offer a helping hand.

Why does she love volunteering at schools?

“I love being around kids!” Ms. McClam explains with a bright smile.  “I’m a big kid myself.”

Ms. McClam previously worked in the District’s food services department, so she was frequently around children, but when she changed careers, she felt a void and knew she needed to return to the schools, this time as a volunteer.

“The kids here are so nice,” she says. “They always say ‘Hi Ms. McClam,’ or ‘How are you doing, Ms. McClam?’ It makes my day!”

A lot of the volunteer opportunities at The U School stem from the school’s very active Home and School Association (HSA), which frequently plans fundraisers and organizes events at the school for the students to enjoy.

The U School’s HSA has had three bake sales so far, and Ms. McClam has been thoroughly involved.  “I help bake and I help sell,” she explains. “The kids have great reactions, especially when they see all the baked goods laid out.”

Recently, the HSA changed gears and is having its first hoagie sale in an effort to see which kinds of fundraisers are the most successful in raising money for school events.  The HSA is offering a 6-inch hoagie, a side, and bottled water for $5. Ms. McClam took initiative in planning this fundraiser, and she’s thinking strategically about how to best catch students’ attention for the sale.

“I want to make a sample to show the kids what they’re going to get,” Ms. McClam explains. “A child just told me today that $5 goes a long way, and he’s right!”  Just like at bake sales, the students might be more inclined to participate in the hoagie fundraiser once they see delicious food in front of them.

Taking initiative is something Ms. McClam often does with volunteer projects.  She usually comes into the school during the late morning or early afternoon and stays through the school day. She’s willing to help out with anything that needs to get done, from monitoring the hallways to helping with HSA fundraisers.

For instance: The U School hosted a “Thankful Dance” in November for its students to raise morale and increase family engagement.  Students brought the people they were thankful for—such as parents or siblings—as their “dates” to the dance. Not only did Ms. McClam help chaperone the Thankful Dance, she also helped with planning and decorations.

The U School is planning on hosting a Glow in the Dark Dance for students in the coming months, as well as a block party for the school and the surrounding neighborhoods closer to the end of the school year as a way of reaching out to the community.  Ms. McClam is excited to get started with volunteering for these events, from planning to chaperoning.

Ms. McClam enjoys volunteering at The U School because there are no barriers imposed by the school.  She can volunteer as much or as little as she wants to, and she can choose projects that she’s interested in.  Not only are the students very welcoming, the teachers and administration do their best to make parent volunteers feel included and feel like the work they’re doing is beneficial to the school and very much appreciated.

“I can come volunteer here easily,” Ms. McClam beams. “It’s the best school ever!” She plans to continue volunteering at The U School and is eager to help out with many more projects, always looking for fun, innovative ways to help the school grow.