In Praise of School Volunteers!

IMG_1081  St. Patrick’s School Reading Week Committee from left: Parent Volunteer Jackie Johnson, Sister Maureen (Principal), Parent Volunteers Donna Cahill and Martha Pierce

This post is in praise of school volunteers, the dedicated parents—and sometimes just caring neighbors—who take on responsibilities to help schools offer more. Their service helps students derive more enrichment from school and allows teachers to devote more energy to their work.

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting a team of such volunteers when I visited their school in Long Island, New York. They call themselves “The St. Patrick’s School Reading Week Committee.” The purview of this group each year is to engage a visiting author to present to the school’s students, who happen to range all the way from pre-school through 8th grade.

Donna Cahill, acting as scout, first contacted me back in August. She acknowledged that not all authors are keen to work with such disparate grade levels. But, she added, flashing a bit of her background in marketing, the students of St. Patrick’s are all well-behaved. And, of course, they were, from the pre-schoolers who sat down properly—girls in dresses, boy in ties—to the 8th graders who took a genuine interest in the creation of books and music.

Usually, when parent volunteers contact me about assemblies, we go so far as to set the date and terms. In the case of the “Reading Week Committee,” that was just their first step. They made sure to share my prep packet with the librarian, Mrs. Brescia. They identified a teacher to take the lead in sharing my books (the school’s spirited music teacher, Julie Sergovich). Committee co-chair Jackie Johnson took the lead in distributing my book flyers. And rounding up orders. On the date of the event, Martha Pierce, yet another can-do parent, kindly fetched me from my hotel because, hey, I was just a guy from California who didn’t know the difference between Huntington and Massapequa. Earlier that morning, the Committee even set the stage with extra instruments (courtesy of Ms. Sergovich): bongo drums, conga drums, a cajón, and wind chimes, items I could not have taken with me on the plane.

The upshot of all this behind-the-scenes work? Students and teachers were not only well-versed in my work. They arrived to the assemblies fairly bursting with anticipation. They had even adorned the hallways with murals around the theme “Get jazzed about reading!” And parents had received reminders about the enjoyment of reading aloud with their children at home.

Could I have provided the assemblies without such an enthusiastic Committee? Yes, but thanks to their help, the event was even more beneficial–and fun! So that is an example of how volunteers enhance schools. Three cheers for the Reading Week Committee at St. Patrick’s—and to school volunteers everywhere who enrich students’ lives!


In the spirit of “Show, don’t tell,” Parent Volunteer Donna Cahill sent me this email in the afternoon following the talks:

Much thanks for coming to St. Pat’s today! I thought you might like to hear some things I heard at pick up today:

“He was soooo funny!”
“The girl behind me kept yelling in my ear, ‘This is the best assembly ever!’”
“Everyone was laughing.”
“Even my teacher had fun.”
“I can speak Japanese.”