There is a variety of reasons that families choose to volunteer at their children’s schools. Jennifer Cullen, a volunteer at A.L. Fitzpatrick in Northeast Philadelphia, has a LONG list of why she chooses to stay involved! Ms. Cullen has been volunteering at Fitzpatrick for the past 12 years and has seen the effects of being so present at her children’s school. It all started when her children first started attending Fitzpatrick; she realized that so many of the things that she took for granted growing up such as trips and fun activities at school were all run by parent volunteers. She wanted her children to have the same things that she had when she was growing up, so she started to get more involved. Ms. Cullen realized that “as important as academics are, there are extra things that make school special that parents can do and help out with.”
Throughout the years, there have been so many ways that Ms. Cullen has gotten involved, but some of her favorite annual events include the book fair and the holiday shop. Other projects that Ms. Cullen has been a part of include raising funds for auditorium curtains, a new school sign for the front of the building, new rugs, holiday gifts, and end-of-year gifts for families. She has also been involved in helping with clerical tasks that the school front desk personnel have needed help with. One of her particular favorite things to do is to make sure that each student at school has a brand new Fitzpatrick folder at the start of each school year. Ms. Cullen shared how much satisfaction it brings her to see that all students can start the school year on the right footing, with new school supplies, ready to tackle a brand new year.
Throughout the years, Ms. Cullen has seen how proud her children feel whenever they would see her in the school building. She explains: “If you care about the school, your child will also care more about the school because they see that you care.” And a wonderful added benefit is that Ms. Cullen didn’t have to volunteer by herself! She shares that she has also made lifelong friends through volunteering at Fitzpatrick, as they’ve planned events and participated in school activities together.
Ms. Cullen also believes that getting involved in your children’s school can break some assumptions that you might have about the school. She feels that many parents may not realize how much work and care school staff put in. She says that the “only way to see it is to be in there and see it for yourself.” Ms. Cullen makes a strong plug that when you’re at the school volunteering, you’ll really see how much the teachers and the staff work and see how much they go over and beyond. She believes that people even may have misconceptions about education in Philadelphia: “Public education in the city has so much to offer…Our schools are great…I love my school so much!” Her own love for the school has lasted not only 12 years but even now that her youngest daughter has graduated from Fitzpatrick. Ms. Cullen still chooses to help the HSA at Fitzpatrick because she believes it’s a great school and wants to motivate other parents to stay involved.
She leaves us with these words about volunteering: “It’s what you make it to be. I firmly believe that.” She hopes that her own motivation to volunteer can spark desire and motivation in others to get more involved as well. Ms. Cullen says, “Give your school some time…You’ll get so much more joy in volunteering than you think — it’s so great to do it and see the kids excited.” It’s never too late! A shout out to Ms. Cullen and to all our schools’ wonderful volunteers who show us how joyful and fun volunteering can be!