Volunteering opportunities to expand at TPS
The closing of the Tecumseh HOPE (Helping One Pupil Excel) program has left some volunteers anxious about next year’s volunteering opportunities. According to Supt. Kelly Coffin, the district is expanding its volunteering opportunities to better meet the needs of students.
The HOPE program was a mentoring and volunteer program at the elementary level in the Tecumseh School District, traditionally focused on helping students in second grade though there has been some kindergartners mentored. The program started in 2000 at Sutton Elementary School and expanded to the other elementary schools in the district a year later. The HOPE program was modeled after the nationally recognized mentor program HOSTS (Helping One Student to Succeed).
The HOPE coordinators will no longer be coordinating, but intervening in the classrooms with the kids under the direction of a teacher.
“We’ve seen some very significant gains in student achievement,” said Coffin. “We’ve also had gains when they [students] worked with the volunteers. So as far as from the volunteers’ perspective, we will have many different opportunities for them to volunteer. If they want to come in and read to students, we will have students available for them to read to. I think that’s one of the big things that they enjoy doing — working individually. I absolutely understand and respect the fact that some people don’t want to come into a whole classroom setting.”
The school will be emailing the volunteers this summer about next year’s opportunities.
“We have needs in the area of math as well, so if there is a volunteer out there who is retired from a math career they may want to work individually with a student in the area of math,” said Coffin. “We want to make sure we are differentiating for the students, but also capitalize on the skills and talents that our volunteers bring to the table.”
HOPE was originally designed for aiding students in reading. It will still be primarily for reading, said Coffin.
“When we look at our data district wide, we have to address our math scores,” said Coffin, adding that they hope to duplicate the success of the HOPE program in the area of math.
“I think that there are people out there that could bring a lot to our district through their past experiences,” Coffin said. “We recognize it’s different, and I think that change sometimes can cause some anxiety.”
Coffin said that the district still has students who are English language learners and students who want some project based learning that needs volunteers.
“We have students who just need time with a caring adult, and it can be to read a story, to help with writing, to just communicate with because they might not have a lot of adult interaction when they go home” said Coffin. “We have our at risk kids, our students that they traditionally work with that still need support that we are going to need help with.”
Currently, students who are aided by the HOPE program are pulled out of the classroom for one-on-one instruction for 30 minutes twice a week. Mentors usually work one day a week, according to Coffin.
“It may still be a pull-out type program,” Coffin added.
The volunteer offerings are not finalized yet.
“We’re still working on a kind of menu,” said Coffin. The new Director of Student Support Service, Laurie Church is starting July 1 and will be taking on the project of creating volunteer offerings.
“Things are changing in education, and I think we have to be responsive to that. We need volunteers,” Coffin said. “I wish I could have it more lock stepped for them right now, but again we really look at the data, we look at what our needs are, and then we respond to those needs. In some cases, we maybe doing something very similar than we’re doing currently with the HOPE, but HOPE was a very focused intervention that worked for some but not all. We have to look at how to expand that, and really this is just an expansion of our programming.”
Coffin encourages volunteers to contact her if they have questions.
“Many other districts have moved already to the model I’m talking about with using volunteers. They don’t have a one size fits all type program anymore, they’ve had to differentiate because of the needs. It’s really based on the needs of our kids. I don’t think any volunteer disagrees with that. They all understand they want to be there to help kids. We just have to find a match. In the end, if we really focus on student needs, I think will have some continued fabulous results.”