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Make a Difference: Volunteer in a New York City School

Submitted by on March 8, 2010 – 7:30 am
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A volunteer provides homework help at the School of Art and Design

I just finished my training to become a volunteer at Learning Leaders.

I found out about them from Ms. Bertilia Diaz, the Parent Coordinator at Hamilton Heights School in Harlem.  She was so enthusiastic about them that I had to check them out.  I had been trying to get involved as a volunteer in my son’s previous school but was incredibly frustrated when I found that I couldn’t even give away free services because nobody ever called me back.  I did not want to pursue another dead-end opportunity to get involved.

Well, I was pleasantly disappointed in my determination to be frustrated again when I walked in for my training that first day.  I was met by a great group of parents with similar interests, hot coffee and fresh bagels with cream cheese in the school lobby.  After our yummy breakfast, we all moved onto the school library where we met we Luis Lopez, one of the Program Coordinators for Learning Leaders.  Mr. Lopez was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and drew you into his high energy almost immediately. For some reason that I never quite got, parents and schools have been pitted against each other in New York City for too long – each often viewing any input from the other as “interference”.  Mr. Lopez understands that at a very basic level since he coordinates volunteer opportunities for parents and has had personal experience as a public school parent.  Learning Leaders works very hard to help parents and the schools to work together for the greater good of the children and the community at large.

A Learning Leaders volunteer helping with spelling

A Learning Leaders volunteer helping with spelling

What I learned

In my three days of very extensive training, I learned a lot about how children learn and about how to work effectively in the school system as a volunteer.  Learning Leaders is definitely on to something great – helping to form the leaders of tomorrow.

Learning Leaders recruits, screens, trains and supports over 10,000 volunteers who provide tutoring services to 250,000 New York City public school students from kindergarten through high school.

How it benefits students and parents

Just a few quick facts about how getting involved can benefit the students:

  • they perform better in their work
  • they are absent less frequently
  • they are more interested in school
  • they did better in standardized tests.

What about the parents? I know for me, I find that after my three days of training, I am far more patient with my own child with his homework because I have better direction.  I get to make friends with other parents, teachers, school personnel and other people of great talent and passion!  Personally, I think I get the best end of the deal.

How to get involved

You can more information about Learning Leaders from their website at www.learningleaders.org or through their main telephone number at 212-213-3370.

Learning Leaders volunteer opportunities vary. They currently have opportunities both for elementary/middle school, high school and arts. All volunteers are screened according to guidelines created by the New York City Department of Education. Volunteers complete an application, participate in an interview, and must complete training prior to being placed in a school.  You can get involved by asking the parent coordinator about Learning Leaders at your child’s school.  You can also get involved by contacting Andrea Jordan at (212) 213-3370, ext. 354 or by email:  Ajordan@learningleaders.org if you wish to get involved but do not currently have a child at school (about ¼ of their volunteers come from the community at large.)

In addition to school volunteer programs,  Learning Leaders also offers educational programs that equip parents to support their children’s education at school and at home.  Topics include child development, school transitions, and developing children’s reading, writing, and math skills.  Trust me on this, if you are a parent dealing with a homework-resistant child, this could be an invaluable resource.

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  • Aqeel says:

    Very useful and informative blog post concerning Volunteer in a School. I have bookmarked your blog for future posts and I will also refer your blog to my friends.

  • Jon D. says:

    Inspiring post. It’s important schools get volunteers to help. When I was in post-graduate education in Michigan, I taught the Junior Achievement (JA) program (http://www.ja.org/) to 6th graders. It was a tremendous opportunity for me and I think the kids got learn something (economics and business) which was not part of their usual curriculum. It was a lot of fun. Anyway, if you’re not in NYC, and want to contribute to a school, JA is always looking for volunteers.

  • Dir New York City says:

    Thanks for sharing Jon. Volunteering in a school is a great thing.

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