Save the date for this Saturday, Sept. 21. We’ll be on the patio at Central Market North from 9 to 10 a.m.
The theme this month is recruitment! Bring a family member, friend, or colleague who may be interested in volunteering with us. They can hear about the experience from current volunteers and speak directly with APIE staff about questions, concerns, and interests.
We’ll see you and your friends Saturday morning!
As a professor of Social Work at the University of Texas, Robin Smith is dedicated to reducing the achievement gap. She has volunteered with APIE for four years as both a mentor and a reading Classroom Coach, and she wants to return each year as long as she can.
Initially, feelings of obligation pushed Smith to volunteer. After a mother looked her in the eye and told her she’d be a good mentor, she felt as though she should or even had to volunteer. “With my social work background, I thought I would have something to offer a child,” Smith says.
“When I found out more about the commitment I thought it was something very do-able,” Smith says. And she has found it to be a very rewarding, positive experience.
As a mentor, Smith worked to create a relationship with her mentee, building her up and acting as a role model. “The whole experience was about learning to interact with a kid who really wasn’t very social or enthused about the whole arrangement,” Smith says.
Smith took the little girl to the university open house, Explore UT, one year. “It really made an impression on her and she seemed to love it. I think it’s a great way to expose kids who don’t know a lot about college to the college experience.”
Smith found the mentoring and Classroom Coaching experiences “like two different social animals” but both extremely positive. As a mentor, Smith worked one-on-one with a girl, discussing social pursuits. As a Classroom Coach, she entered the classroom with a group of adults to tackle academic hurdles and goals.
The energy in the classroom is something Smith finds contagious. “The girls are lively and engaged, and their reading skills have improved,” Smith says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Although she saw definite improvement, Smith says there were also definite challenges. Last year, it was clear to her that one girl was dealing with depression due to nonacademic obstacles. “I wanted to use my social work skills to bring some understanding to her situation.”
Smith says that reading may have been the least of her worries, but she also knew she could do only so much since Smith was not the student’s social worker.
“I think what makes an impact is when you come to a child’s class every week, and they know you’re not going away.”
Although initially she questioned whether she should push the kid who clearly had other worries, given that she came into class just once a week, eventually Smith decided that even a withdrawn child needs some boundaries. Those help establish and maintain a relationship, Smith says.
If she could leave her students with one message, Smith would tell them to try to go to college. “I know that can be hard, but don’t give up on the idea. [They’re] definitely college material…” she says. “I want them to know they’re smart, worthy, and to continue getting their education.”
Connection to APIE
Not all organizations that use volunteers are so well-organized, Smith says. “There’s just a real positive feel about APIE that I like.” Smith has previously connected APIE to the Social Work undergraduate program director and continues to go into classes to promote its programs.
It’s so nice to have an organization like APIE in the community, Smith says. “I’ve learned a lot about teaching and have personally been enhanced by this experience” with APIE, Smith says. “It is a privilege to be a Classroom Coach.”
Our days almost always feel jam packed. Volunteering takes up precious time. Between going to work or school, fulfilling family obligations, fitting in crucial time to socialize and maintain relationships, getting in some “you” time, and of course snagging the ever-elusive eight hours of sleep, it’s easy to understand why finding time to volunteer seems difficult if not impossible.
There are 168 hours in a week. Our volunteer opportunities require 45 minutes, plus travel time, each week. That’s roughly 0.59% of the 168 hours. The reality is that, of course, it IS difficult to find the time. But that small percentage of your week has the potential to boost your mood and sense of fulfillment, help you make professional and personal connections, and improve your overall health.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteers experience pride and satisfaction from their experiences. And regarding volunteering for APIE in particular, you are strengthening communities, improving the lives of AISD students, making connections, and growing personally.
Through volunteering, people can expand their personal and professional networks from connections forged with fellow volunteers, teachers, and volunteer coordinators. In addition, volunteers can gain or improve valuable skills, including leadership and knowledge related to a particular field. According to another study by the Corporation for National & Community Service, “…volunteering is linked with a 27 percent increase in odds of employment, and provides ‘social capital and human capital,’ which are directly related with better job prospects.”
UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, and VolunteerMatch surveyed 4,500 adults in 2010 and found the following:
• 68% of volunteers agree that “volunteering has made me feel physically healthier”
• 89% of volunteers agree that “volunteering has improved my sense of well-being”
• 73% of volunteers agree that “volunteering lowers my stress levels”
Did you know the Independent Sector places a value on the volunteer hour in Texas at $22.57? Based on that value, APIE volunteers (classroom coaches and mentors combined) in the 2012-13 school year provided more than $975,000 worth of academic and personal support to students in AISD. And we’re betting they feel pretty great about that.
Thanks to all those who volunteer or donate! Our programs would not be successful without your efforts.
We strive to provide every student with the knowledge, skills, confidence, and tenacity to graduate from high school and succeed in college and career. So much of what our programs accomplish is due to our partners and to our volunteers. In 2012-13, more than 1,800 wonderful and dedicated volunteers forged relationships with 3,300 students, helping each one grow both academically and personally.
Why we need you. And you. And maybe a few of your friends.
Since 2004, our organization and programs have grown steadily and are reaching capacity based on current resources. Historically, we have worked with AISD to select schools and classrooms that would benefit from our programs. But beginning this year, we invited schools to apply for our services.
As a result of this process, APIE received applications from all currently participating schools as well as 10 new elementary schools, 4 new middle schools, and 3 new high schools. If we are able to serve all of these applicants, APIE volunteers would support nearly 5,000 students at 43 schools.
In the words of our executive director, Cathy Jones, we are honored by the extent to which our programs have been embraced. But as pleased as we are to have such demand, we are still working to secure the financial means through grants and individual contributions to meet it.
Given the unprecedented increase in demand, we find ourselves in need of a little help from our friends, our volunteers.
Won’t you help us spread the word? Share your APIE stories about the kids we’re empowering to succeed.
Last month, three APIE employees met with several of our dedicated volunteers on Central Market North’s patio. One volunteer who joined us has been with us since our programs started! We thought that was pretty awesome. We also enjoyed the company of other returning volunteers, including one who brought along her husband and adorable daughter.
At these events, we spend time getting to know everyone a bit better. Friends and family are welcome. We also would like to answer any questions you have about our programs or how we operate. Hearing concerns helps us better support our volunteers.
Feel free to join us even if you aren’t a current volunteer. If you volunteered in the past, come catch up with us. If you’re interested in volunteering in the future, get to know us. We’ll answer questions, address concerns, and of course enjoy some quality coffee.
This month, we will meet July 20 at 9 a.m. at Central Market North. If it’s hot out, look for us inside rather than on the patio.
Let us know you’re coming! Use hashtag #VolunteerAPIE on either Facebook or Twitter. If you can’t make it but have questions, leave a comment here or use the hashtag. We’ll be sure to answer!
When was APIE founded?
APIE was created in 1983 as a joint project with Austin Independent School District and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. It became a 501(c)(3) organization in June 2004.
What is APIE’s mission?
APIE creates and fosters effective community and school partnerships that provide all AISD students preparation for college and career.
How does APIE pursue its mission?
We offer the following programs to support the success of AISD students:
- 2nd Grade Reading Classroom Coaching and Compañeros en Lectura
- Middle School Reading Classroom Coaching
- Middle School Math Classroom Coaching
- Step-Up Math and Reading
- College Readiness (11th and 12th grade) and Case Management
- Mentoring (all grades)
Our flagship Classroom Coaching model has received best practices recognition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has been cited as an example of Better Use of Community Resources by the U.S. Department of Education.
What type of people volunteer?
Our volunteers are college students, full-time workers, part-time workers, freelancers, retirees, and more. They’re diverse, and they’re awesome.
How do I sign up to volunteer?
Through our website! Visit our volunteer page to find an opening.
What is the time commitment required from volunteers?
Volunteers meet with their students or mentees for 45 minutes once weekly throughout the school year.
Where and when are the trainings? Do you have a training schedule?
Training schedules are available at the beginning of the school year. Check back with us in August!
Are you in every school?
We offer our Classroom Coaching, Step-Up, and College Readiness programs in 26 schools in AISD, but not every school. With more funding and volunteers in future years, we plan to expand to more schools.
Are you hiring?
Check out our website to see if we have any openings.
Do you offer internships or work study positions?
We do! You can see openings here.
Do you have a summer program?
No, our programs are offered only during the school year.
How can I get involved other than volunteering?
Have any other questions? Leave us a comment!
Who: All awesome APIE volunteers!
What: Coffee (or tea, we suppose)
Where: Central Market North
When: Saturday, June 22, at 9 a.m.
Why: We’d love to see you and catch up. How are you spending your summer? Have you found seasonal volunteer opportunities? Do you have a cool trip planned? Come out and tell us about it!
And mark your calendars for our next All-Volunteer Coffee, July 20.