Start Your Day Right: Group Volunteering

Volunteers are a vital part of Behind the Book programs. Joining our Program Coordinators in the classroom, volunteers give kids the extra attention they need as they work on complex research and writing projects. This school year, we expanded our relationships with corporations seeking group volunteer opportunities during the workday. They provide us with much-needed assistance, while their team members have the opportunity to get out of the office and work with kids.

Elsevier recently sponsored their first corporate volunteer day with Behind the Book, working with first and second graders at PS 154 in Harlem. Heather Luciano, a Publisher at Elsevier and her office’s corporate social responsibility “Champion,” helped to coordinate this event. She is currently Behind the Book’s Young Executive Board co-chair, and wanted to share her experience volunteering in a classroom with her colleagues. Heather sees the two organizations as “the perfect marriage” and hopes to develop the relationship between Behind the Book and Elsevier through long-term volunteer commitments and funding opportunities.

Heather and the rest of the volunteer team from Elsevier helped Ms. Jay’s first and second grade class work on their writing, as they transferred research notes into full sentences. The program was centered around We Dig Worms! by Kevin McCloskey, a book that provides kids with information on how worms are important to gardens. Each student had chosen a “garden helper” (bee, worm, butterfly) to research, and then wrote informative essays. The class was thrilled to meet the new volunteers and a buzz of excitement filled the room as they wrote their ideas into full sentences.

Unza, one of Heather’s coworkers, is actually a PS 154 alum. From the moment she walked through the doors of the school, she was brought back to her childhood. After working with her student, she reflected on the experience of serving as a writing coach in her alma mater, noting a feeling of pride associated with the students’ enthusiasm. To Unza, the experience was a great opportunity to engage with students that sat where she once did, “I appreciate the values that the children are learning, not just the education but the complete experience of learning at this age.”  She was overwhelmed by how politely and appreciatively the students in the class were—a product of both the learning experience and our amazing Program Coordinator Myra’s ability to engage every student on a personal level.

Although our volunteers mostly focus on the development of the students’ writing ability, they can also learn from the experience of working with children.  As Unza reflected, it is exciting and infectious to see the enthusiasm of the students. Behind the Book’s own investment in the next generation would not be the same without the dedication and time of our volunteers.  We look forward to cultivating relationships with corporations and more group volunteer days to come.  As Heather noted: “the impact of this type of relationship is significant, both for us and for Behind the Book; we are both getting something great out of it if we leverage the relationship optimally.”

This guest blog post was written by Charlie Stephenson. Charlie just completed his Development Internship with Behind the Book.  He also recently graduated from Fordham University with a BA in English with a double minor in French and Sustainable Business.

This class and volunteer group was beautifully photographed by Karen Smul.