Communities in Schools expands programs


Kristie Byrd, Special to KP News

Communities in Schools of Peninsula, which has been offering after-school reading and math programs to students at the local schools, is expanding this fall and has launched a volunteer recruitment campaign.

Last year, CISP had 85 volunteers. This year, the organization is looking for about 35 more. The mentors have a range from mature 11th-grade students, to 80 years plus.

Communities in Schools - Peninsula Director Colleen Speer addresses supporters at the annual "Denim to Diamonds" fund-raiser in August. Photo by Hugh McMillan

“As a nonprofit organization, we depend on community support from civic groups,” said Rochelle Doan, volunteer coordinator. “Gig Harbor Rotary, for example, has not only helped provide financial support, but has brought many volunteers to the program as well. The Angel Guild has been very supportive of our mentoring programs over the past four years.”

Other funding comes from individual donations from community members, foundation grants, and through the annual fund-raising event “Denim to Diamonds.”

The mentoring programs offered by CISP are intended to help students who are struggling in areas of reading and math. In 2002, the reading program started at Vaughn Elementary. This fall, reading sessions will be held at Artondale, Evergreen, Harbor Heights, Minter Creek, and Vaughn elementary schools, while math programs are planned at Key Peninsula and Kopachuck middle schools.

“The program I was in was excellent. Throughout every class that I went to, no matter how many times I attended, I can’t say that there wasn’t one time that I didn’t get the help that I needed,” said Karli Walker, a former KPMS student and CISP attendee. “I remember one time we were working on a certain section, and I had no clue what to do. With only one hour from the math help, I got a B-plus on my test. Before I took that test, I couldn’t say that I had scored that high before… It (the program) was worth every minute. It was fun, and I learned at the same time.”

The program is once a week, for about an hour, at the student’s school. Volunteers are paired with students one-on-one whenever possible.

Elementary school reading volunteer Glenda McQueen thinks the program is very worthwhile. Although she has only been volunteering for one year at CISP, she has worked in the district for 27 years, and about 10 of them has been volunteering of some sort or another.

McQueen likes the program best because she was able to work one-on-one with the students, and she didn’t have to do the prep work, like the teachers do. She said it was easy to follow directions, and was pleased by how well it was run.

“I think it’s important to be involved with kids,” she said. “I’m not just a person that they see during the day. They also see I’m concerned about their education. I love reading with and to the kids. It’s important that they see parents and other people in community that are concerned for them and their learning.”

McQueen said that she would continue to volunteer, and encourages other people to do it. She says volunteering gives a good sense of self-satisfaction by helping others.

“It makes me feel really good beyond what I do in the building,” said McQueen, who works at Evergreen Elementary. “The kids thank me for the help and the teachers say it made the kids improve.”

Colleen Speer, CISP executive director, said, “We are so grateful to our community members who give their hearts, their talents and their time mentoring students to personal success. Encouraging a young reader and supporting a struggling math student not only helps a young person succeed in school, it paves the way for them to be successful in life.”

Kristie Byrd is a freshman at Peninsula High School.