Having been a single parent for many years, I often wondered how I could have provided more opportunities for my children. Sitting in the audience of a civic club meeting four years ago, I found myself imagining how my kids might have benefited from a program like Steve Lehmann's. Steve is the Director of the After School program at Reno Valley Middle School.
I decided that I was not leaving that auditorium until I had the chance to speak with Steve and pledge to help his 21st Century Community Learning Center program however I could. Steve’s personal commitment, passion and drive for his program called to me. The program was so much more than an extension of school, it was about other ways to educate kids and simultaneously have fun. My background is not in education, so I guess you could say that I had an epiphany of sorts about the importance of access to opportunities for youth.
My son had just graduated from high school and my daughter wasn’t far behind. I had time on my hands; there was no excuse not to get involved.
I dedicated myself not just to spending time with the kids at Reno Valley Middle School 21st CCLC Program, but to really seeing the program expand and take off. I was instrumental in establishing a school business partnership with my employer at the time. My pet project was a mini program call “Classy Guys”— which we started with a small grant for arts and manners education. We took the guys to the ballet and the local art gallery. An expert conducted a session on manners. But I knew that this program could offer so much more. I expanded it to include field trips to businesses and visits to community college classes. Bringing life and life skills to that program was one of my most rewarding experiences as a volunteer.
I recently changed jobs and am no longer able to volunteer with the Reno Valley Middle School’s 21st CCLC program, but I hope that in my time there I was able to enrich the lives of some of our children through exposure to different experiences and offer those kids better chances to career pathways leading to fulfilling lives. My own life is certainly much richer for my volunteer experience. I owe Steve a debt of thanks for making a difference in the lives of so many students and helping me to do the same! When afterschool programs have such strong leadership it encourages volunteerism that benefits all those involved.