Volunteers in the Spotlight
Thank you to the many volunteers who bring inspiration and a desire to improve education for all students in Somerville.
We are grateful to each and every volunteer for their commitment.
Below, a few Volunteers share their stories.
Meet Argenziano Volunteer Math Tutor Jim Gallagher
Somerville resident and 30-year transportation planner Jim Gallagher has been volunteering at the Dr. Albert F. Argenziano at Lincoln Park School since September, 2010. Placed through the SPS Volunteer Program, Jim decided to pursue volunteering in a school because he wanted to give something back to the community, he had strong math skills, and he used math in his professional career. Last year, Jim came in to the school for two hours every Monday and Tuesday, working with a sixth grader, and several eighth graders. This year, Jim is providing volunteer math tutoring to five seventh graders.
“It's been a very interesting process,” says Jim. “One of the biggest challenges for students is trying to answer the question ‘why do I need math?’ Sometimes they understand that they’ll need math for a future job, or to pay bills, or some other practical reason like they need to pass the tests to graduate. But motivation for math is tough. So helping them to pay attention is at least as important as helping them understand how to solve a problem. What I find is that students are almost always grateful for the attention and the extra help. And for me, it's very satisfying to see how happy they are when they perform well on a test or get some concept that they didn't understand before.”
Argenziano School Principal Barbara O’Brien attests to the benefits of having a qualified and reliable volunteer working one-on-one with students. “Jim is a real asset to students and staff here. We’re grateful for his dedication over the years and for the individual help he continues to provide our students.”
John F. Kennedy School Honors SPS Volunteer Janet McGourty
The John F. Kennedy School will honor Volunteer Janet McGourty in gratitude for her years of service at the Kennedy PTA Open House on Monday, November 26 at 5:30pm. Longtime Somerville resident Janet McGourty has been volunteering for more than five years at the John F. Kennedy School. A former elementary school teacher with special needs education experience, Janet contacted the SPS Volunteer Program after discovering that she missed teaching and connecting with students. “I wanted to do something in the schools, and use some of my background working with special needs students. I had no idea at the time how fulfilling this would be or that I’d stay for so long.”
Janet worked with SKIP (Specialized Kennedy Intensive Program) students from 2003 to 2004 as a Summer School volunteer in the program, and then every week during the school year. She returned to volunteer at SKIP in 2008, the Summer SEEK (Socio-Emotional Education at the Kennedy) Program in 2009. In 2009 Janet tutored students in a third grade classroom, an experience that she found meaningful. Soon after, she began volunteering with a Kindergarten classroom.
Since that time, Mrs. McGourty has been a steady presence in the Kindergarten classroom, volunteering every week to read with students in small groups, working one-on-one with a student, or helping educator Roxane Scrima with classroom work. Through her volunteering at the school, Janet forged friendships with staff and students, providing reliable support for whatever was needed in the classroom. “It has been such a pleasure having Janet in my kindergarten classroom,” said Ms. Scrima. “Her enthusiasm for learning new things is contagious around staff and students. We will miss her weekly book pick and her participation in classroom activities."
When asked why she wanted to volunteer with Somerville Public Schools, Janet cited the impact a volunteer tutor had on her educational experience. She was in ninth grade and having difficulty with algebra when a volunteer tutor showed up. “It meant the world to me to have support as I struggled. When I finally understood it, I was incredibly happy, and my tutor was happy for me. I felt that my tutor always had faith in me and knew I could do it. This experience led me to want to do the same for a student.”
Volunteers from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government helped beautify spaces at the Next Wave/Full Circle School and East Somerville Community School at Edgerly on August 30, 2012. Volunteers painted a lab, teacher's office and hallways. Students and staff are digging the fresh digs. Thank you HKS Serves!
"Every week, I look forward to meeting my first grade reading buddies in Ms. Holtzman's classroom at the Argenziano school. I'm squeezing in this half hour of incredibly rewarding volunteer time between dropping off my 1st grade son and dashing off to work. I was going to just read with one child one morning a week, but I ended up coming in two mornings because another student needed help. Recently some boys in the classroom started asking me to read with them. The students really look forward to the personal attention and reading to an adult.
I love working with first graders because they are new readers and to see them decode words on their own and show that they understand a story is exciting. I've been able to witness this week by week with kids that can use the extra help. I strongly believe that school parents and community volunteers can have a significant impact on our kids and their learning. Over this year, I’ve seen students grow as readers, and I’ve been able to get to know some of my son’s peers. We are looking to expand volunteerism in the fall, so now’s your chance to plan ahead!"
---Marian Berkowitz, Argenziano School parent volunteer
Boston Cares and Biogen Idec Service Day, September 2011
New playground maps, four-square courts, kickball court painting,new planter benches and science lab reorganization were some of the improvements at the Healey and Kennedy Schools. More than forty volunteers helped out at these sites.
Thank you Boston Cares and Biogen!
Volunteer Literacy Tutor Carol Seplowitz has been volunteering at the John F. Kennedy School for four years. Working 1:1 with students to support and guide their reading, Carol brings humor, enthusiasm, and her passion for reading to every session.
What brings her back? "I really enjoy the students and sharing with them the joy of reading. They love the special attention, the time to talk about what they like, and the chance to read with an adult without any distractions. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know some of the teachers. I'll be back next year!"
- Carol Seplowitz, Kennedy School Volunteer since 2008
Carol is a volunteer with the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL).
"I love volunteering at the high school library. The library and office staff are helpful and friendly, the teachers are dedicated and enthusiastic, and the students take school seriously. I could go on and on about the high school because so many exciting things are happening there: from science fairs to after-school clubs, from multicultural events to theatrical productions. I wouldn't have known about any of this if I hadn't started volunteering." --Jeanine Jenks Farley, SHS Volunteer
Thank you Career Explorations Volunteers!
On April 11, 2012 volunteers with expertise in a variety of fields participated in Somerville High School's College Fair. Many thanks to Peter Argue, Meghan Lee, Deb Jacobs, Michelle Siegal, Alexandra Teyssandier, Josh Hochman, Jeff Whiteside, Pamela Shields, Linh Nguyen, Loan Nguyen, Joe Barbato, Chris Berry, Dana Mann, Marjorie James, Alissa Gross, and Vivian Soghomonian for sharing your career inspiration with Somerville students.
Healey School Volunteer Jason Sawyer has been volunteering for three years at the Healey School tutoring math. "Jason has made a huge difference...his service has helped a student earn 'Student of the Quarter' award based on his math improvement" says teacher Ellen Isbitz.
Ellis Mukoro, Urban Promise Service Project at Next Wave/Full Circle
Students from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Mayor Joe Curtatone (a graduate of the program), Jim Halloran, and HKS Dean David T. Ellwood volunteered to create Somerville's first StoryWalk during their Public Service Day, 2011. Photo courtesy of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, 2011.
Somerville String Camp
Volunteers share their stories of how they came to Somerville Public Schools, what keeps them here, and what they've learned. We welcome your stories as we develop these profiles in inspiration.