Oftentimes when we think of the things that can brighten a school environment, we think about many large changes or initiatives, but Ms. Agnes Parrish, parent and volunteer at Samuel Gompers School in West Philadelphia, feels that small gestures can make a big difference. Ms. Parrish has been volunteering at Gompers since 2011, and one of her biggest motivations to volunteer is simply that she loves having fun and loves when other people have fun. As she has spent more and more time at Gompers over the years, Ms. Parrish realized how much fun she can have with other parents, teachers, and the students, and that’s what has kept her involved in the school all of these years.
Ms. Parrish reflects on days at school when either staff members or students seem to be having rough days, and whenever they seem to be down, she just wants to cheer them up. Ms. Parrish says: “I want to put a smile on a parent or teacher’s face. The day goes by quicker if everybody can be smiling and happy.” Ms. Parrish realized how oftentimes, students just need a quick word of encouragement or a friendly smile from someone who they know and see consistently. She shared that many times, students will walk over to her and want to talk about something that’s going on or how they feel about certain situations, and she loves that she can be a listening ear for those children. And over the years, Ms. Parrish has developed those relationships with Gompers students and has begun to know them better.
Back in 2011, Ms. Parrish first got involved at Gompers as her children began attending the school. The school environment and staff seemed nice, and Ms. Parrish wanted to learn more about the school and what her children would be learning about and doing at school. Many other parent volunteers started inviting Ms. Parrish to come out to more school events and get involved, which drew her to get more and more engaged with volunteering at school. Over the years, she has loved helping out with Fun Day, the dodgeball committee, various school trips, the Home and School Association, parent cafes, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables to students at school, and more.
Ms. Parrish has learned how much work goes behind-the-scenes in order to provide for a child’s education and the many moving pieces at a school. Even though at times it is a lot of work, she believes it’s all worth it. As Ms. Parrish has spent more time at Gompers, she has realized that it all comes back to the students and supporting the learning that students do at school. She has seen how excited her own children get whenever they see their mom at school– whether it’s attending a concert, helping out in a classroom, or providing an extra set of hands at the office.
With all that being said, Ms. Parrish would urge others to get involved as well! She believes that just going into the school and observing is the best first step: “Get to know the people; once you get to know the people, you’ll be surprised…” Ms. Parrish encourages other parents and family members to see the difference it can make when you go into your child’s school and actively become a part of their school experience. She says that children will always ask: “Did you see me? Did you see me?” and they want to know that somebody was there for them. Ms. Parrish’s final encouraging words are: “Come, volunteer! Get involved in your child’s school — you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have. One person can make a huge difference.”