volunteering with a mission.

Despite the icy winds outside, over 70 people chose to spend their Saturday morning in a high school cafeteria. On March 14, representatives from Austin Partners in Education, the St. John’s Neighborhood Association, YoungLife, Austin Stone Community Church and Reagan High School spoke with the volunteers about the needs within the school and community, as well as guidelines for working with the students.

These volunteers make up just a small pool of over 300 people who responded to a video that was shown at Austin Stone Community Church several weeks ago. The video talked about the situation Reagan High is facing and the help that the teachers are needing. After the 2008 TAKS exams were scored, Reagan High was ranked “academically unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency along with 2 other high schools, 2 middle schools and 6 elementary schools in Austin ISD. For Reagan High and Pearce Middle School, these ratings mean that a decision may be made soon about the future of their campus.

Michael Madison, the new Volunteer Coordinator at Reagan, has offered up a menu of tutoring options for anyone interested in helping out the students.

Volunteers can:

.. “Adopt a Teacher” by helping a classroom with a range of projects including tutoring, behavior management or just making copies.

.. help students prepare for the upcoming science and math sections of the TAKS exam.

.. assist students after school Monday through Thursday from 4:20-6:00pm.

.. come on Saturdays to tutor students from 9am – 12pm.

Volunteers are also being recruited for “Beautify Reagan Day” on Saturday, April 18.

The overwhelming response from the Austin Stone has come with a new spirit of service. Many times, we have found that volunteers become frustrated or discouraged if they are not given clear roles and guidelines or if their experience does not meet their expectations. According to Mr. Madison though, these volunteers have come to this opportunity truly willing to help in any way possible.

Classic mentoring has proven to be more difficult in high school than in younger grades. Though many volunteers are willing to be a positive role model to teenagers, it can be hard to convince the students of the benefits a mentor can offer them. We have started encouraging volunteers who are interested in mentoring high school students to get involved in other ways at the school or within the community. As some volunteers at Reagan have found, you can get to know students very well through tutoring without the pressure that comes with sitting down for your first mentor meeting. Once students see that volunteers are really there to support and help them, they can become more comfortable and may talk to their tutors about what is going on in the personal lives.

I am very excited to see the progress that is going to be made at Reagan High in the next few months as these volunteers pour into the students and teachers. The St. John’s community as a whole is becoming a model for a new relationship between neighborhoods and schools. No matter what happens when the next round of TAKS scores comes in, I think that a real difference is being made in the lives of these students and the staff at Reagan.

If you are interested in becoming involved at Reagan, please sign up here for the volunteer opportunities listed above: Austin Partners in Education – Reagan High.


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