B.F. Day volunteers tackle myriad tasks

Five days a week, Rose Chang, 82, travels by bus from Capitol Hill, making two transfers on her way to B.F. Day Elementary School . She volunteers about six hours a day at the Fremont school.

"Grandma Rose," as everyone at the school calls her, has been volunteering for three years. She helps out with reading and art projects.

"I like to keep busy; I don't like to sleep or sit around," Chang said.


They are young and old; some working, others retired. They come from high school, college, local businesses, the community, and some are former students. They are the volunteers at B.F. Day, 3921 Linden Ave. N.

More than 200 volunteers give a total of more than 6,000 hours of service per year, according to Beth Tesh, volunteer coordinator for the school. B.F. Day's volunteer program is much like those of other schools, she said.

"Students get personal mentoring and example-setting, teachers get much-needed help with activities and extra-curricular events and materials, and volunteers get the satisfaction of making a difference," Tesh said.

Volunteers help out in the school's computer lab and library. They read to bilingual students, help in the art room and tutor during and after class.

They also assist with family dinners, lunchroom and office tasks, organizing and data entry.

A new project this year is building an organic garden, according to Tesh.

"We had one volunteer help us with a wood-burning project," said fourth-grade teacher Janet Sawyer. "We burned haiku poems into a rocking chair."

On average, volunteers donate three hours per week.

The tutoring program is vital to having each child's needs met, according to principal Susan McCloskey.

"The one-on-one attention builds not only the child's skills but their self-esteem," she said.


Established in 1892, B.F. Day is the oldest, continuously operating elementary school in the Seattle Public Schools district.

"The school was remodeled in 1991, but it kept lots of its old charm," McCloskey said.

The school serves special populations of children, including bilingual students. It represents 14 native languages, special-education and homeless children, according to Tesh.

While the diversity provides a rich atmosphere for learning, the variety of needs can be challenging.

"Volunteers who work with individual students are one of the most valuable assets I have, because each of these adults brings a unique set of experiences and qualities with them," said Gary Jennings, a special-education teacher.

According to Jennings, volunteers are matched with specific students based on the student's needs and the personality and personal strengths of each adult.

He said his volunteers come from a variety of professional backgrounds, such as military, aeronautics, photography, computer engineering, aeronautical engineering and private business. He also has volunteers who are in graduate school.

"Our students become very much attached to their adult volunteers and look forward to seeing them each week," Jennings said.

The after-school tutoring program provided one-on-one help to 55 to 65 students this year.

Getting involved

Chang got involved with the school through the Foster Grandparent Program, a Senior Corps volunteer program for individuals over age 60 who want to work with children.

"Grandma Rose is wonderful," said Sawyer, the fourth-grade teacher.

Joseph Feathers, a volunteer in the library since 2002, said he really enjoys his time volunteering at the school.

"He has a special skill: He knows where every book in the library is," said librarian Gilberto Hedges-Blanquez. "Students can go to him for help locating a book, and he will always know where it is."

Feathers won the Outstanding Volunteer Award from the Washington Library Media Association in 2005 for the Seattle School District.

Volunteers also help with fund raising, and according to Tesh, there are many ways to help out.

"We do sales of kid art, gift wrap, candy and candles, Octoberfest in Fremont, Campbell's soup labels and recycled ink," Tesh said. "Our biggest is our annual auction."

The auction raises more than $80,000 each year, according to Tesh, and is hosted by Adobe Systems at its office.

"Our fund-raising efforts allow us to have a half-time art teacher, part-time vocal music teacher, part-time tech analyst, field trips, outdoor science education and assemblies," McCloskey explained.


For information on becoming a volunteer at B.F. Day Elementary, call the school, at 252-6010.

Tutors should have basic academic skills, openness to learning from students, dependability, patience and flexibility. The after-school tutoring program usually takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3 to 4:15 p.m.

Though the tutor program usually lasts longer, this year it ended early on April 5, due to a loss of funding from a grant through Atlantic Street Center. This funding pays for Tesh's position as volunteer coordinator and an assistant.

"I love volunteering here," Chang said. "The people are so nice, and the children are wonderful."

[[In-content Ad]]