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Four Tips for Volunteering at Your Local School

One thing almost every school has in common these days is figuring out how to provide a quality education despite budget cuts. The days of...

One thing almost every school has in common these days is figuring out how to provide a quality education despite budget cuts. The days of volunteering meaning manning a bake sale table are over. Schools need people to work directly with kids, and they welcome volunteers who don’t have children at the school site.

Most districts have formalized processes in place to assess your volunteer skills and ensure student safety… Since I live in Los Angeles, I contacted LA Unified’s School, Family and Parent/Community Services Branch to see what tips they’d give to would-be volunteers. They referred me to their website – which has a slew of great suggestions, no matter where you live. You’ll want to consult your local district for their specific guidelines, but here are four additional tips to consider as you dive into school volunteering:

Meet the School’s Need: If you’re an EMT, you may have grand plans for helping out in health or science classes, but keep an open mind and focus your service on what the school tells you it needs. Teachers may need someone to practice math facts with a couple students or help run the computer lab. As you build the relationship through your service, you’ll find ways to introduce your ideas.

TB Test: Before you can volunteer you need to get a tuberculosis test – and the results need to be negative. If you’ve had a test recently, depending on the school district, your TB clearance can be up to six months old. You can get a TB test done at your private physician’s office or at the health clinic of your choice.

Background Check: For students’ protection, most districts require both FBI and Department of Justice background checks. You’ll have to foot the bill, which could run you over $100. However, some districts only require the check if you’re going to be volunteering more than a couple hours a week or if you’re going to be working with kids in an unsupervised capacity.

Dress For Success: No principal wants a volunteer who looks scruffy and trust me, you don’t want kids looking down your low-cut blouse or laughing at your boxer shorts showing because your pants are sagging. Dress like the role model you are!

Once you’ve felt the pride of knowing you helped students improve academically, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t volunteer before! Let’s hope the volunteering spirit continues even if school budgets improve.

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