Oftentimes, parents will express that they want to be more involved in their child’s school, but they don’t know how. Maybe it seems like there are too many possibilities and ways to help, or it can be unclear what the needs of a school are and how to step in. In 2009, Haviva Goldman, a parent volunteer at J.S. Jenks Academy for Arts and Sciences, decided to take the initiative at her son’s school by stepping forward and finding ways to better the school.
Ms. Goldman first started by getting involved in the Home and School Association, but after a few years, Ms. Goldman wanted to raise money for larger projects in the school. She took it upon herself to see what other parents and community members were thinking, realizing that several other parents were also brainstorming what they could do to contribute. They wanted to start an independent organization whose mission would be to support the programs and infrastructure at the school and to advocate for the school and the community. So, in 2012, Ms. Goldman helped to create the Friends of J.S. Jenks organization.
Ms. Goldman and other parents took the first steps to talk to the principal and teachers to ask them what the needs at school were. She says that “they wanted to go hand-in-hand with what the principal was saying,” and work together towards the same goal. The principal had a vision of students having more enriched arts and music programs. With this goal in mind, the parents were first able to secure microphones for music classes and buy new art supplies for the art teachers.
This initiative didn’t end within the school–they also looked into partnerships in the community. The members of Friends of J.S. Jenks (FOJSJ) aligned with the principal’s goal in advocating for enrichment opportunities for the students, with a strong push for music and art opportunities in particular. They developed a partnership with a local church that funded an outreach program; students from Jenks Academy could attend enrichment programs at the church, while volunteers from Jenks Academy would come in and help out with the music and art classes. FOJSJ also funded museum trips, sports clubs, and other programs for students.
Ms. Goldman has also helped to lead contributions to the science curriculum at Jenks Academy. The FOJSJ members formed a collaboration with a local business association that now regularly contributes to the school. Those funds allowed the school to purchase new furniture for the science classrooms. Ms. Goldman and the team members have also helped to acquire more hands-on supplies for science experiments in the classrooms.
One of the memorable events that Ms. Goldman has been a part of has been a Spring Funfest event, similar to a school carnival. The carnival booths are primarily run by parents and volunteers. She is also helping to plan a formal fundraising ball for Mardi Gras for the school. This event is a chance for community members to come out and support the school through a silent auction and a night to bond with other school families.
It is evident that Ms. Goldman has been a self-starter who took the initiative to respond to the needs and wants of the school staff, leadership, and families. When asked what motivates her to volunteer, Ms. Goldman responded: “From the standpoint of my community, I feel like it’s important to have a strong school in the community and have community involvement in the school,” in turn strengthening both. Her own commitment and passion for public education also drive Ms. Goldman to fight to stay involved at Jenks Academy.
In thinking about parents volunteering at school, Ms. Goldman says, “Sometimes parents come to a meeting and really want to help, but they’re afraid because there are parents who have been there longer. But in reality, we really need people to come in and offer new ideas and new skills.” Ms. Goldman believes in the value of each person’s skills and thoughts that can contribute to the whole group. She encourages more parents to not be shy about stepping in and offering help and spearheading brand new projects that can help to better the school. So, while it can seem intimidating for parents and families to get more involved in their children’s schools, Ms. Goldman is a great example of the amazing things that can happen when a parent steps up to be engaged!