Volunteer leaders are needed to help fuel the imaginations of students through art and science at Starry Night 2020 and beyond -- after organizers had to put the 2019 event on hold.

Stephanie Henderson, chairwoman of Starry Night 2020, said the learning festival with emphasis on arts, science, technology, engineering and math would not be held this year by Westerville Partners for Education due to a lack of volunteer leaders to ensure a high-quality experience.

"One of the reasons we chose to pause this year is to be able to communicate about the need for continuous renewal in our volunteer leadership corps," she said. "Our objective is to communicate a lot over the next five months and also find a message that helps our new leaders to continuously communicate the need for leaders and recruit new ones."

Henderson said Westerville Partners for Education wants to create a sustainable approach to Starry Night so it can be held for many years.

In order for the event to be successful, she said, committed volunteer leaders are needed for the following roles: co-chairmen; volunteer coordinator chairman; facilities chairman (school and security); sponsors chairman; marketing chairman (electronic media, print media, community outreach); and five zone captains (exhibitors).

Monthly, two-hour meetings will begin in September for the 2020 event.

Outside of the meetings, Henderson said, each chairman or zone captain can spend up to eight hours per month working on Starry Night, with more time required closer to the event, scheduled April 5, 2020.

She said there usually are about 50 to 75 student and adult volunteers to help set up, support exhibitors and tear down on the day of the event.

"We don't lack for 'day-of' volunteers," Henderson said. "Starry Night is inspiring not only to those who attend, but to those who make it happen. It is a fabulous opportunity to experience that learning is fun, and the energy of the children, families and volunteers is contagious."

She said Starry Night has grown significantly over the past five years, which requires more volunteer leaders to ensure the experience quality remains high.

"While burnout can be attributed to the need to gain new volunteers, I also think it is the nature of volunteer organizations such as this," Henderson said. "As people's lives change, their focus for their volunteer activities changes as well."

She said the group is committed to creating a sustainable effort for a high-quality Starry Night in 2020 and beyond.

Jen Aultman, Westerville Partners for Education president and a founding member, said she enjoys the positives of the event, such as seeing the delight on children's faces as they learn from and with partner organizations, older students and each other.

"(It's) the joy and energy of bringing together so many people who exude passion for discovery and learning," she said. "The uniqueness of this event -- not a science festival, but a STEAM festival that explores how art and science are intertwined."

Aultman said the event is a testament to the wonder that all ages experience when finding that special exhibit that speaks loudly to us, relating to our passions for life, the earth and the cosmos.

"All who experience Starry Night carry these seeds of excitement out the door with them into the wide world," she said. "Those of us who create this event get to witness this magic."

Anyone interested in joining the leadership team may email Henderson at shenderson@nexccltd.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla