Decatur Elementary Volunteer Shows That Giving is a Two-Way Street

Posted on April 20, 2022
Categories: Featured FACEs

Jennifer (left), an ESL teacher at Decatur with parent volunteer Linda

For so many of us, volunteering at a school can seem like a daunting idea. With numerous things to do and ways to help, how can you even get started? Linda, an experienced volunteer who recently won the District’s Family Engagement Award and regularly helps out at Stephen Decatur School has a bit of advice to get you started– “Start slow, but don’t be afraid…ask questions, but just do it because you won’t regret it.” Linda has been volunteering at Decatur for a while now, working with her school’s Home and School Association (HSA) to bring everything from air-conditioning to a snack line to the school. And then there’s the eighth grade Get Together, a student dance that Linda and her fellow volunteers helped to plan and host. Jennifer, an ESL teacher at Decatur and friend of Linda’s explains that “It’s very important to the students– they get together one last time as a class and the kids get to enjoy their last couple days together and teachers are invited– its something exciting for the children to see before they go off and become these leaders in the world.”

When volunteers such as Linda work to partner with teachers and staff at a school they can do some truly great things. Jennifer explained that “I feel like without Linda, I do not think we would be where we are today…she played a big part in getting materials for the school”. When the pandemic first hit in 2020, Linda explained about how she and her fellow volunteers tirelessly worked with teachers to accomplish feats like doing a neighborhood car parade complete with decorated cars and free ice cream. And then there were the lawn signs– “For the graduates that year we got lawn signs and put them on their lawns (graduate congratulations signs), and to see all of them popping up on Facebook– parents were so touched that their kids were remembered, it was just really, really nice.”

The work that Linda and her fellow volunteers do at Decatur helps to show that when family and community members come together as a group, they can make a huge impact on the school and improve the lives of the students there. Teachers, staff, and volunteers at Decatur are hoping to instill that same community-driven spirit in their students. Linda explained that Eighth graders perform five hours of logged community service and they can attend their eighth-grade dance. Teacher Jennifer echoed that same commitment to volunteering and the importance of community engagement within the school, saying that “I think parent involvement is necessary to get the school running.”

Stephen Decatur School in Far Northeast Philadelphia

Research throughout the years has shown that when families are engaged with their child’s education, a number of positive outcomes happen. A 2007 book on school and family engagement by Henderson et. al.* explains that when students have families that are engaged and “involved with their learning” they “earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education” (pg. 2). These key facts along with a duty to help have allowed volunteers like Linda to contribute positively to her child’s school and wider school community. After all, as Linda said, “You do something for the community and the community does something for you.”

*Source: Henderson, A. T., Mapp, K. L., Johnson, V. R., & Davies, D. (2007). Introduction. In Beyond the bake sale: The Essential Guide to family-school partnerships (pg. 2). The New Press.