WESTFIELD — Matthew Garlo, the new community outreach coordinator for the Westfield Public Schools has been going to school open houses lately in search of VIPS.
That’s Volunteers in Public Schools.
Garlo said it’s been good to be back in the schools and letting people know about some of the volunteer needs and the time commitment involved, which he said can be as little as one hour a week for one-on-one mentoring.
He has already reached out to former volunteers, and has heard back from a good number of previous library and classroom assistants, people who may have been giving their time for several years.
More are needed, though, specifically library assistants in Franklin Avenue and Munger Hill, Westfield Intermediate School and the two high schools, as well as classroom assistants throughout the district. Also needed are lunch and hall monitors in all of the schools, and tutors. Westfield Technical Academy staff for one said they can always use more math tutors, according to Garlo.
“There are never too many. No matter how much time you can commit, we’ll definitely have a spot for you,” he said, adding that volunteers are the glue that help to hold the schools together and fill any voids. “Volunteers do that every day in Westfield.”
Garlo is not only reaching out to the parents, but to retirees and groups, such as the Circle K service group at Westfield State University, whose members commit to community service hours every year.
He is also engaging the business community to volunteer through the Westfield Education to Business Alliance (WE2BA). One-on-one mentorships with students interested in their field, for as little time as one hour a week, is one way professionals get involved with the schools.
Garlo said for business volunteers, watching students develop professionally or academically, especially when they have career goals or interests that align, can have a long-lasting impact on both. “Business people, professionals, say they benefit as much or more seeing students develop in that fashion,” he said.
Overall, volunteers are needed more than ever this year. “Volunteers are really going to get us through, especially in a year like this when kids are getting adjusted to being back, and staff are too,” he said.
Garlo said he plans to continue to show up at school and community events, and to get people on board.” Anyone interested in getting involved may reach out to him at [email protected] or by calling or texting 413-875-2023.
All volunteers in the schools must fill out a CORI form which they can get from VIPS or by stopping in at the central office in the Westwood Building at 94 N. Elm St., or at any of the schools to request one in person.