Visit any of our campuses on any given day, and you will find a team of dedicated volunteers—parents, grandparents, retired teachers and community members—working on a variety of tasks throughout the school. You will find them helping in the front office, the classroom and the teacher workroom; Literacy Partners in the hall, reading one-on-one with students who need a little extra practice; Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) helping with a classroom party; HEROES Mentors meeting with their mentees, talking about their week; or Destination Imagination (DI) and robotics coaches helping their teams prepare for competition. They are quietly and selflessly helping to make our schools, students and communities stronger, and for that we are forever grateful.
By the end of this school year, we will have some 14,000 volunteers in LISD who have registered to help on our campuses. That is approximately one volunteer for every three students! Numerous research studies have shown how parental and community involvement can benefit students—higher performance in classes and on tests, better attendance, increased social skills, more positive attitude toward school and higher graduation rates. In nearly every case, everyone wins when we have a large, thriving base of volunteers. Students can see how their family members and others are invested in and prioritize their education, they see the importance of contributing to a greater cause and they benefit from exposure to adults from a variety of professions and backgrounds. Schools with active volunteers report being able to provide more of the “extras” for their students, and staff morale increases. Volunteers gain greater insight into their student’s day-to-day and the innerworkings of their school, show increased confidence in their ability to parent and help their child learn, and are more likely to advocate for their school within their community.
Because we firmly believe in lifelong learning for our students and staff, we also provide learning opportunities for our volunteers and mentors. Several times throughout the year, we host “Lunch & Learns” for our campus volunteer coordinators in partnership with the LISD Council of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and for our mentors. Volunteers gather together to enjoy lunch, networking and hearing from district and community experts on topics like recognizing and reporting child abuse, the various Career & Technical Education opportunities at the high schools, helping students deal with change and anxiety and learning about LISD’s and the PTA’s legislative priorities.
Among all of our outstanding volunteers, there are two who have left a particularly large footprint. Last year, Sue Williams, a longtime PTA member and graduate of the Leadership LISD class, graciously asked to write the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award application for LISD. She volunteered hours and hours of her own time to speak with district administrators, to research and to complete the extensive application. Because of her gumption and willingness to lend her talents, our district was named the H-E-B Excellence in Education large school district for the state of Texas and won a $100,000 grant that will benefit thousands of our students and teachers. Another parent volunteer who is going above and beyond is Traci Whitney, who works with the TMF Foundation to invest tens of thousands of dollars into building gardens and promoting healthy eating at several of our elementary schools. Parents and teachers have raved about the excitement their students now show for eating the food they have grown, even asking to buy kale and collard greens to eat at home, too!
Our kids, our teachers, our schools and our communities do better when we are involved and invested in our students’ education. Thank you to the thousands of volunteers who are contributing to making LISD an exemplary district. I encourage each of you to help in whatever capacity you can by reaching out to your home campus, contacting your PTA or exploring the community tab on our website to find the best way for you to get involved.