Davis Middle School volunteers
Helpers act as role models at Olde Sawmill
The origin is foggy, but the student volunteer program between Olde Sawmill Elementary School and Davis Middle School is helping students in more than academics.
The program that puts volunteers from Davis Middle School into Olde Sawmill Elementary classrooms has been around for five years and has 51 students involved so far this year.
Sandy Odenweller, an instructional support teacher at Olde Sawmill, and Teri Ray, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Davis, can't quite remember who came up with the idea.
"I don't know if it was Teri or I who initiated it," Odenweller said. "Her kids go here so we knew each other."
Regardless of its origin, the program has grown since its beginning from a handful of middle school students who walk to Olde Sawmill and help out during their study period.
"Now kids are asking to do it," Odenweller said.
According to Ray, students return year after year to the volunteer program and often ask for assignments.
"Some middle schools flourish over here," Ray said. "It's their strength."
The teachers start taking volunteers in September or October and try to match their study period with an Olde Sawmill teacher.
After that, students must go through training on how to check into the school and in different math and reading strategies. Students are also trained to make the short walk to Olde Sawmill in groups before they get into the classrooms in November.
"The other part of training is character and responsibility," Ray said. "This is like a job. You have to give a commitment."
The elementary students who receive help in the classroom often develop an older friend or find a role model, the teachers said.
"They look forward to it," Odenweller said. "If they don't come, they're disappointed. There's a friendship and bond."
Davis students spend about 30 minutes each week in a classroom.
"Sometimes volunteers go into the classroom and help out or they pull a student out into the hallway and read with them or run flashcards," Odenweller said. "I often see them sitting out in the hallway."
The program lends a hand to more than the students, though.
"Teachers ask me about it," Odenweller said. "They see the benefits of it and look forward to the help. Especially the primary teachers. An extra set of hands is a huge help."
The student volunteers also get something out of the program.
"It builds life skills," Ray said.
"It's so much more than just working with the child," Odenweller said. "There are so many more positive aspects than we expected."