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School Volunteer Week highlights local programs

Date:

Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees proclaimed April 22 – 26 Public School Volunteer Week and heard updates on several volunteer programs within the district, including the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), Watch M.O.M.S. (Moms of Marvelous Students) and Foster Grandparents program. 

Volunteers spoke about their programs, including Chris Warnock of the Desert Heights Elementary School Watch D.O.G.S. program. 

Fathers within the program volunteer their time to bring positive male role models into schools and classrooms. Volunteers are asked to spend a whole day at the school, from when students arrive until they leave, so they can fully understand what goes on during the day. 

Warnock said he has spent more time in the classrooms than any other Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer and said it’s an essential program. 

“Educators have a bigger burden than ever before inside their classrooms, and the issues that they face go well beyond the walls of their school,” Warnock said. “I think this program is very important because in order to solve a problem that is occurring within the community in education, you need to involve the community.” 

WCSD Foster Grandparent volunteer “Grandma D” speaks at the April 23, 2024 Board of Trustees meeting.

Foster Grandparent program coordinator Sherry Brown and 92-year-old volunteer “Grandma D” also spoke to trustees. 

The foster grandparents program was launched in 1965 as a branch of Americorps Seniors and began serving northern Nevada in the 1980s. There are 82 foster grandparent volunteers in northern Nevada, 61 of whom serve in Washoe County. 

Volunteers range in age from 58 to 92, with the average volunteer 74 years old. Volunteers give an average of 14 hours a week toward their schools, and more than 58,000 hours have been served in local schools by “grandmas” and “grandpas” within the program. 

Brown said many students don’t have intergenerational connections, and the foster grandparent program can help to provide those.

One volunteer is known to students as Grandma D. She has been volunteering for more than 20 years and has implored others to get involved. 

“We desperately need more foster grandparents,” she said. 

She said she has seen firsthand the differences in students throughout the 20 years she’s volunteered and noted that children are struggling academically and emotionally. Most of the requests volunteers receive, she said, are for hugs. 

Board President Beth Smith applauded the programs and their volunteers and said, “I think you are a model for what can happen when the community gets involved in our schools.” 

Trustee Colleen Westlake agreed and said that when she “grows up” and is finished with her time as a trustee, she intends to join the foster grandparent program. Superintendent Kristen McNeill called upon all parents, guardians and community members to find ways to volunteer their time and talents to support the district’s public schools.

Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.

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