In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Month, the San Francisco Unified School District is recognizing a few of its standout helpers. (Courtesy photo)

Volunteers vital to student growth

You’ve seen them in our schools — teachers, principals and counselors — patiently working with our kids day every single day. But did you know we have thousands of other folks who show up for our kids as well?

Here are just a few I’d love to introduce you to in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Month:

Linda Fawkes

When the Education Fund launched a new student literacy program at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary, volunteer Linda Fawkes was among the first to sign up.

Literacy volunteers commit one hour a week to work one-on-one with two students for the entire school year. Fawkes’ work there led to her earning the San Francisco Education Fund’s Distinguished Service Award this year.

The school’s literacy specialist put it this way:

“Linda has taken initiative above and beyond her role as tutor. She is that rare sort of person with an internal commitment to seeing and filling needs. You are just as likely to find her tutoring students as you are to see her headed off on a field trip. She seems to have a sixth sense about when and how help is needed, and her presence feels supportive and never intrusive.”

Gier Hernandez

Over at Sanchez Elementary, Education Outside provides support to transform the school garden into a living outdoor classroom, complete with Gier Hernandez as a science teacher. Along with teaching kids to make scientific observations and sketches in the garden, he loves to teach cooking.

“We’ve made sun tea. Kids harvest things like lavender and mint, and we use solar energy to make the tea,” Hernandez said.

The garden also has a solar oven, and this week, the kids are making “solar nachos” with cilantro and chives they’ve been growing.

Hernandez is also one of our own. His family came to San Francisco when he was 14, and he dove into environmental justice and conservation work while a student at Burton High.

After getting a degree from Humboldt State in environmental management and protection with emphasis on environmental interpretation and education, he came straight back to the San Francisco Unified School District to share his love of the environment with others.

And there are so many more.

I want to thank all the volunteers and AmeriCorps members who help our city’s children every day. These people amaze me. They provide a vital support network for our children to thrive and grow in school — and in life.

How to volunteer

Want to volunteer or be part of an AmeriCorps program? Here are some places to get involved:

Mentoring for Success and Healthy Choices Program
www.healthiersf.org
(415) 242-2615

Education Fund volunteers
www.sfedfund.org/getinvolved/volunteers
(415) 695-5400

Education Outside
www.educationoutside.org
(415) 355-6979 ext 1566

Richard Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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