Allentown School District: Volunteers Wanted
By Allentown School District Superintendent Gerald L. Zahorchak, D.Ed.
Allentown School District is embarking on an historic initiative this school year: the implementation of a districtwide volunteer effort, organized to make a difference in the lives of our students and the improvement of their academic performance.
Why volunteer? There's abundant research on the benefits of volunteering but the majority of volunteers will tell you that it is the genuine satisfaction of helping someone improve his or her lot in life that makes it all worthwhile.
The Allentown School District, with almost 9,000 students in elementary school, offers a unique opportunity to engage the community, communicate the principles of healthy living and give academic support and enrichment to elementary school students through the "Start Your Day Right" Before-School Program.
In the Allentown School District, 81.0 percent of all of our students are designated as low-income. Of all elementary students, 76.5 percent qualify for free or reduced school lunch. Roughly 11.8 percent of all students receive English Language Learners (ESOL) assistance. Students from over 40 countries speaking more than 25 languages are seeking, here, the American education that will make a difference in their lives. Their challenges also show up in student health. The BMI (Body Mass) Index reveals that 40 percent of ASD students are obese or overweight and almost 18 percent of them are asthmatic.
But the real challenge, for the district, is academic performance. We believe that providing our students with the right supports will go a long way to improving health, homework, academic outcomes, hope and happiness. Volunteers can help us do that.
300 Volunteers Needed by September 6, 2011
With a population of 110,000, the City of Allentown should be able to produce .3 percent of its residents as volunteers. With the help of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, the City of Allentown, AARP, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, CareerLink, Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley, Workforce Investment Board, area business leaders and others, we are seeking to recruit 300 volunteers for our elementary program by September 6, 2011.
Key elements of the Start Your Day Right program are:
- offered before the school day, 7:30 to 8:40 a.m. Monday through Friday
- structured to include three activities, 20 minutes each in length: breakfast, fitness, and academic support.
- staffed by a core team of one site manager and two support staff at each elementary school to manage the activities
- evaluated to track the degree of community engagement and the impact of this program on the health and academic success of the students.
Community volunteers are essential to the success of this program. Costs for background clearances will be reimbursed to qualifying volunteers. TB checks will be conducted by the City of Allentown, free of charge.
We hope that intergenerational tutoring and mentoring will be a big part of this effort. For more information, contact: Katie Gill, Tutoring Project Manager, [email protected] , 484-765-4192, Joyce Marin, Before & After School Project Manager, marinj@allento[email protected], 484-765-4095. Information and application forms can also be found at www.allentownsd.org/volunteer.
Sign up now, it's an investment in our children well worth the effort. Thank you.