It wasn’t meant to be that way.
In 2005, Jean started volunteering at the after school program. At first thejob entailed helping with the snacks that are given to the children when they arrive, followed by assisting with the homework assignments. The hardest part was adjusting to the confusion, as 40-50 lively students hopped off the bus and were eager to begin another afternoon program at Green Street. Anything beyond fourth grade mathematics was a challenge as they don’t teach it the way the Shaws were taught. After the dust settled (thanks to Cookie’s handling of the initial chaos… a distinctive and ever-present voice) things went more smoothly. The most rewarding part of this venture was making new friends and watching as the students grew and began to work together. Just a “please” or “thank you” was a big reward.
It was in the fall of 2006 that Biff started to hang out with Jean … just to see what it was all about. Little did he expect that a casual drop-by would become a regular part of the weekly calendar. Helping with snack was easy and sometimes fun. Mentoring was hard and many times just plain boggling. Reading for comprehension was a challenge and adding and subtracting using one’s fingers or checkmarks on a page is a long way from rote learning done 70 years ago.
We persevered and the kids, while baffled by our inability to understand their way of learning, were really very patient with us – sometimes more patient than we were with them or with our own frustration.
It wasn’t until 2009, when a dedicated corps of Wesleyan students and others took charge of mentoring, did we hit our stride. Since then we have concentrated on food “service” and service it has become. Special orders are the call of the day. The old “some like it hot – some like it cold” has become our signature. We have learned who likes only peanut butter on peanut butter and jelly days, and who prefers a turkey and cheese without cheese. The students obviously appreciate it. They show it in many ways and if we have gained nothing more than their respect and a semblance of good manners … we feel we have achieved our goals.
As a result, it really didn’t end up so much a vocation, as a labor of love.
Submitted by Jean and Biff Shaw, After School Volunteers
Even as we begin to wrap up the After School year, Green Street still relies heavily on its volunteers! There are a number of After School and non-After School volunteering opportunities available. If you are interested in getting involved, or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (860) 685-7871. We hope to hear from you soon!