Volunteer of the Week - Haley EdwardsPosted by Jenny Walters on 6/15/2021 12:00:00 PM
Like many UNC students, Haley Edwards started volunteering with School Reading Partners as part of a service-learning requirement for her Spanish class. Typically, many college students only volunteer for one semester. However, Haley decided to volunteer for the entire year. When she got ready to tell her students goodbye around Thanksgiving, one of the students got so sad that Haley said “oh no, I can’t do this.” She decided that she wanted to keep working with them in the Spring if she could. Luckily for Haley and her students, it worked out!
As with many things in the world, School Reading Partners had to take place virtually this school year. This change brought many new challenges for the program, but Haley really enjoyed the increased flexibility of reading virtually, as well as getting to cut out transportation time. She noted that “sometimes, they’re just worn out. I can see it. And I’m like, ‘ok, we’ll make this a shorter one today.’ And it’s not like I ‘wasted my time’ so to speak coming all the way over there if it’s just a rough day for them.”
Conversely, if sessions are going well and they have the time, Haley has been able to spend longer with the students. She and her student, Sebastian, were reading a chapter book together. They were close to the end of the book and since it was an asynchronous learning day, they were able to extend their session by 15 minutes to finish the book.
One of the hardest parts of volunteering virtually has been not being able to interact with the students in person. Despite only interacting on screens, Haley made connections with both of her students, so it was difficult to never get to see them in person. In a normal year, School Reading Partner volunteers get to give their students a book at the end of the semester to commemorate their time together. With the pandemic, that wasn’t possible. Fortunately, Haley and her student, Cate, found a way around this by making each other cards and sending pictures of the cards to each other.
Another unique aspect of Virtual School Reading Partners has been that volunteers have needed to interact with parents. Normally, volunteers interact with teachers and school site managers, but since the students were at home, they had to coordinate with the parents. Both Sebastian's and Cate’s parents said that Haley was a Godsend. Sebastian’s mom remarked “I’m really thankful for Haley. Juggling pandemic life wasn’t easy and having Haley support Sebastian’s reading was really critical to his success. She made it fun and his reading skills greatly improved because of the one-on-one attention.” Cate’s mom echoed these sentiments, commenting “Our daughter's love of reading, as well as her reading fluency, grew as a result of the program. We are big fans!”
Haley graduated from UNC this past May and has moved back to her home state of Texas to start a job as a Medical Assistant. She hopes to apply to a Physician’s Assistant program in the future. She will miss Sebastian, Cate, and their families, but is so grateful to have spent this past year getting to build relationships with them and helping them learn to love reading.
Volunteer of the Week - Solomon Gibson IIIPosted by Kay Edwards on 6/3/2021 9:15:00 AM
Like a lot of us, Solomon Gibson III gained a few pounds during the pandemic. One early September morning, he decided to try walking off some of that extra “pandemic weight”. What he didn’t realize at the time was how that walk would impact so many children in the CHCCS district.
Schools were closed to students and staff in March 2020. One day while walking, Solomon, who lives close to McDougle schools, noticed a flurry of activity taking place around the back entrance of the cafeteria. That’s when he saw Ashley Aliano, a familiar face and manager for the Child Nutrition department. Solomon had met her earlier when he volunteered with the Food for Summer program. Ashley explained that they were loading meals in order to deliver them to children throughout the district, and they were a little short-handed. Without hesitation, Solomon jumped right in and started to help.
Many people volunteer for a day, maybe more, depending on what their schedules allow. For others, like Solomon, giving back to a community in need is part of a regular routine. He started volunteering in September and continues to this day. He has packed food, loaded buses and cars, assembled boxes, delivered lunches, and has participated in many other requests to help. His role: get food into childrens’ hands to ensure they do not go hungry. Solomon expressed that he has always felt a deep responsibility when it comes to children. He sees them as vulnerable and needing protection and will do all he can to make sure our children don't go hungry. “When you know someone needs help, and you have the ability to lend a helping hand, you should do it”.
Not wanting to sound altruistic, Solomon states, “I am only doing what anyone would do in this situation, nothing special or out of the ordinary”. But the work he, and so many other volunteers do, is in fact, special. Thinking about the needs of others and then being proactive makes the lives of those around you better. And when people choose to follow that path, they often feel better about themselves, as well.
Solomon continues to walk and will do whatever he can to make our little corner of the earth a brighter place.