“It’s not so much about me telling him to do his homework.”
Plateau resident Jeff Richards isn’t a teacher. And nor is he trying to be.
What he is trying to be is a friendly resource and a helping hand to one local student – someone who will listen to their problems or concerns, and offer whatever words of wisdom might help make the difficult lessons of school a little easier.
Jeff is a volunteer with the Issaquah School District’s (ISD) VOICE mentor program. VOICE, which stands for Volunteers of Issaquah Changing Education, is also supported by the Issaquah Schools Foundation (ISF), and sees local residents from all walks of life working one-on-one with buddies from elementary, middle and high schools.
For one hour a week, Jeff meets with Pine Like Middle School eighth-grade student Michael Elekes, to talk about anything that is on Michael’s mind, from how to master that math problem to life-skills advice.
“Michael has a passion for wrestling and in order to be on Skyline High School’s squad next year he will need to be successful not only on the wrestling mat but in the classroom as well,” Jeff said. “He’s a very intelligent kid. My goal with the VOICE program is to help him use that to the best of his ability.”
With small class sizes in jeopardy due to state funding cuts, one-on-one mentoring is a rare, but critical opportunity for young students.
VOICE volunteers are carefully matched with a student based on mentors’ desires and student needs, and partner with school staff to support students academically. Importantly, the program also aims to foster social skills and motivate students to be lifelong learners. Now in its seventh year, VOICE has expanded to serve students in more than 20 district schools.
But more volunteers are needed.
If you have one hour a week to spare, and want to make a positive difference to the life on one local student, contact VOICE program Director Susan Gierke at 425-837-6801 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.