Year of the Volunteer: Software makes for simpler match for volunteers and opportunities

Kyle Elementary volunteer Cecilia Peche gives about 15 hours a week to the school, including serving as PTA president. (Photo by Kim Hilsenbeck)

by KIM HILSENBECK

Hays CISD is calling 2012-2013 the “year of the volunteer” for good reason.

While district officials say they’ve had strong support from volunteers and mentors in the past, they are excited about rolling out a new web-based program from Relatrix Corp. to manage the volunteer workload and expectations.

“We have lots of people who want to help,” said Angie Mendez, Hays CISD volunteer coordinator, “but if they show up and there isn’t a job that day, they get frustrated and the campus administration gets frustrated.”

She said the new software alleviates that kind of issue.

“Parents or community members who want to get involved in our schools can sign up, create a profile, go through a criminal background check and select the type of work they want to do. They can also choose the campuses where they want to work,” Mendez said.

Spokesperson Tim Savoy said the big deal about the new program is that it pairs people to opportunities. Once someone signs up and gets approved, Savoy said, they can choose the volunteer opportunities that meet their needs.

“Some people may be able to come in every day or once a week, others may only be available occasionally. This software allows us to manage the workload and give volunteers flexibility. It matches the needs with the interest and makes for a better volunteer experience,” he said.

Volunteer opportunities include everything from regular, ongoing tasks to special events such as book fairs and carnivals. Community members who want to mentor students can also register through the new system.

“It expands the ability for people to volunteer,” Savoy said.

More than 500 people have registered to volunteer in the new software.

The software will also show the number of volunteer hours across the district and by school.

“With this new system, we can thank our volunteers for their hours of service,” Savoy said.

He is working with Mendez to roll out a Hays CISD V.I.P.s card, which stands for Volunteers in Public Schools. Savoy said the name was adopted from another school district but Hays CISD created its own logo.

Savoy and Mendez say the new system is not designed to make existing volunteer groups, such as PTAs and Boosters, switch over. This system is designed to enhance their current system. Savoy said one of the best benefits is the ability to log all volunteer hours across the district.

“We encourage everyone to register but they don’t need to change their existing volunteer management systems,” though Savoy said they may find it beneficial.

“PTA and Boosters are huge groups of our volunteers,” Mendez said. “So they can use what they’re already using, but they are welcome to utilize the new software, including its tools and features for contacting volunteers.”

Mendez said all the hubbub is directly tied to a Hays CISD Board of Trustees goal to improve its culture of recognizing, welcoming and appreciating the contributions of parents, volunteers and mentors.

“It’s one of our top priorities,” Mendez said.

Meeting the goal includes tactics such as creation of a volunteer handbook, developing a brand identity for volunteers and district participation in Global Youth Services Day 2013.

Tracking volunteer hours served will also help meet the goal of administering the Presidential Volunteer Services Award. The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, established in 2003, created the volunteer award to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers make in communities across the country.

To date, the council has granted more than 1.5 million awards.

“The coolest thing I’ve ever seen (with volunteers programs) is at the end of the year, you can say we have X number of thousand volunteers who donated X number of hours,” Savoy said. “And that translates to multiple millions of dollars. That is the best way to say ‘thank you – look what you’ve been a part of. Thank you for your service, you’ve earned the award.’”

Become a mentor, change a life

Are you qualified to be a mentor to a Hays CISD student? Absolutely, says Angie Mendez, the mentor program coordinator for the district. Hays CISD is recruiting individuals in the community interested in changing the life of a child.

Community members are qualified to be a mentor if they can: 1. care, listen and offer encouragement; 2. help children develop their strengths and talents; and 3. give time to make a difference in a child’s life.

Research repeatedly shows that having a mentor helps a child be more successful in school. But mentoring benefits society as a whole because healthy, educated and nurtured children tend to grow up to be productive adults and responsible parents.

There are three requirements to become a Hays CISD mentor:

• A one-year commitment to meet with a student once a week for 30 minutes

• Consent to a Hays CISD Criminal History Check

• Attend one training session

Mentor training is offered in English or Spanish upon request by contacting Angie Mendez at (512) 268-2141, ext. 6078 or by email: mendeza@hayscisd.net.

 

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