The Community of Huntersville Education Collaborative is working to find people who want to volunteer in the schools, with the goal of creating a bridge between them and school needs.
The group, officially formed in July by the Huntersville town board, consists of 14 school, nonprofit and business representatives working to connect volunteers from the larger Lake Norman area to any school serving Huntersville students.
Collaborative chairwoman Carrie Kester, 33, said that, when schools were asked about their needs, their top request was volunteers.
“Schools are making us aware of volunteer needs on an almost daily basis,” she said, noting opportunities range from reading and lunch buddies in elementary schools to test proctors at the high-school level.
Kester said since the group formed, it has found a number of people who want to volunteer their time and resources but who weren’t sure if there was a process to get started. The feedback she’s heard is that many people are not sure whether to contact Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools first or local schools directly.
“They just need some help getting in there,” she said. “We’re just a facilitator and we’re building a bridge between the two. (The feedback) is a lot of excitement, and they’re just relieved to have a pathway into the schools.”
Matching volunteer interest with specific school requests is just one course of action for the group, Kester said, while they’re simultaneously working on a speakers bureau that would connect community expertise with classroom curriculum.
Kester said it can be challenging – and time-consuming – for teachers to try to find someone in their community who can share experiences applicable to what they’re teaching. The collaborative hopes to streamline that process.
“We’re aiming to have a common, core curriculum-aligned speakers bureau so a teacher can go on our website, pull down objectives and what they’re working on in class, and see relevant community assets.”
Currently, the group is working to provide support to 14 schools, several of which are in Cornelius. “Those that serve Huntersville students, those are the schools we serve,” said Kester. But when it comes to volunteers or speakers interested in sharing their expertise?
“The more the merrier,” she said. “We haven’t put boundaries on who’s involved. … Anyone who has an interest in helping Huntersville schools is welcome.”
Kester said businesses and nonprofits can benefit from working with schools in more ways then getting their names out. “Strong schools build strong communities. There’s a real purpose in getting involved with a school,” she said, noting students are the future workforce. “The second-highest (request from schools) was for service projects, they want to get students out into the community.”
Hough High School Principal Terri Cockerham said she believes the group can be a benefit to both schools and the community. “It could serve a dual purpose and show the importance on both sides,” she said. “It’s important for students to see the community supports them (and) it’s also good for the community to see all the good things going on in schools, because that (news) doesn’t always get out there.”
Kester said the group’s No. 1 need is simple. “What we need is the community to answer the call,” she said. “Our biggest need as a group right now is the engagement of the community.”
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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