Thursday, February 4, 2010

Metro Nashville workers get incentive to volunteer at schools

Metro Nashville's 11,000 government workers can volunteer two hours a week in the city's public schools and still be paid, Mayor Karl Dean said Wednesday. Dean said he hopes the measure will spur volunteerism throughout Nashville. He signed an executive order in front of a fourth-grade class at Warner Elementary School in East Nashville. "Research has shown that if students are paired up with volunteer tutors and mentors, they are more likely to improve their grades, be more engaged in school and, most importantly, to graduate from high school," Dean said. Dean said he hoped Nashville's private sector would follow suit and provide workers with a similar program. Jan Moore, who teaches foreign language speakers English at Warner Elementary, applauded the program. Moore said a volunteer in her class last year made it possible to put on a Thanksgiving program for her students. "It really makes a difference," Moore said of volunteers helping in the classroom. "It especially helps with reading and having people they can read to." Metro Schools Director Jesse Register said the program was a great effort. "Volunteers add so much to what our schools can offer students," Register said. "These benefits extend well past assisting teachers, mentoring or tutoring students, or assisting with improvement projects. They provide that community involvement and support that is so critical to success." Schools' needs queried According to district officials, individual schools were asked to identify areas where they needed help and are working with nonprofits to increase community volunteers. The PENCIL Foundation, a local nonprofit, will manage the program by matching volunteers with the 10 pilot schools, which are Dan Mills Elementary, John Early Middle, Cane Ridge High, Dodson Elementary, East Literature, J.T. Moore Middle, LEAD Academy, Madison Middle, McGavock High and Wharton Elementary. The program will grow with demand, Dean said. James McClanahan, who works as a volunteer services assistant for the Metro Library Department, signed up for the volunteer program shortly after Dean's announcement. McClanahan said he hoped Metro employees would use the program as a way to get more people involved and give more time. "To be able to give back to the lives of children is one of the most important things for their future success," McClanahan said. Workers can register at

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