NISD depends on volunteer army to make an impact for students

September 16, 2011

With more students but less funding and fewer teachers, never has Northside ISD’s volunteer army been more important.

This school year, more than 20,000 volunteers will spend time at an NISD campus with the express purpose of helping students. Their contributions run the gamut – from helping an elementary school student complete his or her homework after school to helping a high school student build a prosthetic leg as part of an Independent Study Mentorship project.

The volunteers themselves also run the gamut, from grandparents and parents to business owners and experts in their field.

“These volunteers are the heart and soul of Northside ISD and we truly consider them partners in education,” said Bonnie Ellison, director of School-Business-Community Partnerships for the District. “We depend on our volunteers to enrich our students’ education and also to provide assistance wherever it’s needed.”

The District’s Partnerships Department matches volunteers with schools and programs based on the skills of the volunteer and the needs of the students.

Seven years ago, shortly after moving to San Antonio to be closer to her son, Marion White signed up to volunteer at McDermott Elementary School through the Jewish Coalition for Literacy. Once a week, a van picks up White from her retirement community and takes her to McDermott. She spends 30 minutes once a week with the same student throughout the school year.

Sometimes they work on reading, multiplication tables, or educational games, or if a holiday is approaching, White brings materials to make cards for family members and teachers.

“I just feel like I’m accomplishing something if I’m helping someone out,” said White, who turns 90 in November. “I feel good about it.”

Durand-Hollis Rupe Architects can attest to the mutual benefits that come from working with children. Last year, one of the firm’s architects mentioned at a staff meeting that his daughter’s class at Myers Elementary was studying building and architecture in preparation for a “world’s fair.”

“Everything we build has something to do with the community,” said Gabriel Durand-Hollis, president of the firm, so it seemed only natural to offer their expert consulting services to the students.

Over the course of three months, six of the firm’s architects made multiple visits to the school, teaching students about proportion of scale, soil types, and the impact of weather.

Some day, those students will be serving on a board or commission and have to make a decision about a construction project, and they’ll have a better understanding of the time and expense it takes to building something, Durand-Hollis said.

“These children are our future customers,” he said. “The more they know about how the world works, the better for all of us.”

For more details about volunteering at an NISD school, please visit the Partnerships Guidelines web page or call (210) 397-8599.