Many students are used to seeing their teachers, principal and support staff every day, but there’s another very important group of people who enrich their daily lives – volunteers! One example of a volunteer who is a very familiar face at her school is Ms. Dena Kimball, a parent and volunteer at Fox Chase School. Ms. Kimball started by helping out at Fox Chase in small ways. As she continued to get involved, Ms. Kimball’s heart, passion, and vision for her school community grew. This year, she won the Family Leadership Award to acknowledge her for her leadership and service. One of the biggest things that stands out in Ms. Kimball’s service is the way she is driven by a distinct vision and specific goals. Her vision has pushed Ms. Kimball to stay active in the Fox Chase community and make a tremendous difference at the school.
Ms. Kimball first got involved at Fox Chase School as a parent in 2015. Growing up, she watched her mother’s involvement at her own school and the impact that it had on her. Just like her mom, Ms. Kimball had a vision to be a community mom for all the students at her child’s school and be a support to the school. After having two autistic children, Ms. Kimball was even more determined to get to know teachers in the building and do anything she could to support her children’s teachers. She started taking small steps to volunteer, which built up to her level of involvement today.
Some of the early ways that Ms. Kimball got involved was to help collect Box Tops, emcee Bingo Nights, and staff the school’s Holiday Shoppe. One small effort led to another, and Ms. Kimball began to think of new and innovative ways to support the school. She knew that Fox Chase is a closely-knit community with lots of small mom-and-pop shops nearby. Because many business owners know the principal well, Ms. Kimball began to reach out for donations from these local businesses to help support different events held at the school. One of the events that Ms. Kimball wanted to spearhead was a teacher and staff appreciation luncheon. She had a goal to appreciate every single staff member, even those who are part-time workers.
Ms. Jaime Serrano, Family Engagement Liaison at Fox Chase School, highlights the fact that Ms. Kimball’s effort “has increased family engagement at the school on multiple levels. They have provided dances, fun days, structured recess equipment, workshops, and so many more activities that have been utilized by the entire school community.” While Ms. Kimball has participated in many different events, she says that the teacher and staff appreciation luncheon and The Holiday Shoppe are two of her favorite events to help with. Ms. Kimball expresses that The Holiday Shoppe is a great opportunity for her to connect with every student at the school, and she loves that she can be that type of presence for the students. The staff appreciation luncheon is special to her because she loves connecting with teachers and staff members and even giving them small gifts of appreciation. Ms. Kimball says, “I want to make this a more connected community.” She loves helping every single person at the school – even those who are not at the school every day – feel noticed, acknowledged, and connected to others at the school.
Ms. Kimball’s goal to help everyone be connected does not stop with school staff – it extends to parents and family members as well. Ms. Kimball believes that no parent should be struggling on their own with how to support their children. She wants to break down barriers in order to make more of a team effort to help the child. She realized throughout the years that, sometimes, the expectations of teachers and parents can be so different and that can pose a barrier, but if teachers and parents tried to understand one another more, children would be all the better for it. Fox Chase’s Principal, Robert Caroselli says, “She truly is a leader and visionary when it comes to aligning parents and school staff to create one common goal for our students: success.”
In addition to working towards connection between parents and school staff, Ms. Kimball is motivated by her own experiences as a mother of two autistic children. Ms. Kimball loves to work with parents who have students with disabilities in order to connect them with resources and help them navigate the many challenges and tools that can be useful. She realized that there are so many resources available in the city but sometimes they feel disjointed and confusing. Ms. Serrano says that Ms. Kimball is “always available to support her children’s school and any family who is in need of assistance.”
Not only have parents gained new tools but other family members have seen Ms. Kimball’s example and wanted to get more involved at Fox Chase as well. Principal Caroselli states: “Dena has been a tremendous support for the students and parents of Fox Chase… [She] has inspired our families to become more involved in our school and our community.” Ms. Kimball encourages all family members to get involved, explaining, “The biggest message I have is that you are not alone… [there are] little ways to get to know the teachers and school staff…we do the best we can with what we have.” She wants to share her vision for deeper connection and support for all parties in and out of a school. The ultimate reason for all of this? The kids. Ms. Kimball says, “Our kids always come first.” This is the underlying motivation for why Ms. Kimball works hard to volunteer and give her very best to Fox Chase School. Congratulations to Ms. Dena Kimball for winning this year’s Family Leadership Award!