Bridgeville Events
Thursday, November 4th. 1999
 
Elementary school welcomes volunteers
By Bill McCauley
Ruth Ann Hampstead is the coordinator of Woodbridge's highly successful HOSTS (Helping One Student To Succeed), which brings caring members of the community into the school. There the person mentors a child one-on-one in language arts. By reading aloud and writing together, the two - mentor and child - bond with each other with positive results, Hampstead said.
"We are delighted to once again have our most senior mentor," Hampstead said. "She happens to be a former teacher here. She's 90 years old and feels that her mentoring makes her feel very useful. It gives her a great deal of pleasure. Therefore even people who feel they have nothing to offer do, indeed, have much to offer."
The former teacher is Florence Pearson, who taught sixth grade at Greenwood before it consolidated with Bridgeville. In fact, she taught Ruth Ann Hampstead's husband in the sixth grade.
Pearson is only one of about 30 mentors. Others include members from the National Guard and Greenwood Police Department. Hampstead said that Delaware Electric Cooperative has been a mentoring partner since HOSTS began there four years ago.
Other mentors include Charlotte Passwaters and school board member Deborah Stogner, foster grandparents, parents and retired school employees, one of whom is Charles Parks, retired principal.
Hampstead explains the method her mentors use so successfully: "We put the student's weak areas in the computer after which we make up a lesson plan for the individual mentor. The mentor follows the lesson plan. Together, mentor and student write, looking up words from stories they're reading. Each child has a word bank, which is a see-through plastic envelope. Accompanying each story is a collection of small cards. On one side of the card is the word; on the other side is its meaning. After the young student finds the word that matches the one he's having trouble with in the story he reads the definition and then drops the card into the word bank. And all in the company of a doting, caring and watching oldster! It makes learning so much more fun - like a game."
Hampstead said that the students' progress shows up in the manner in which they read. In the beginning of the year the story is read without feeling, without emotion. By the end of the year they know when to pause at a comma or a period. And they put much more feeling into it.
Hampstead has had a long association with Woodbridge School District - a total of 22 years, 16 of them in the classroom.
In 1994, she came on as volunteer coordinator, the same year the program started. Two years ago she moved over into the HOSTS program.
Sharing the other half of Hampstead's modular classroom, with a screen partially separating the two halves, is volunteer coordinator Pam Miller. "I have the best of all worlds with the kids, parents, mentors and Pam Miller to work with," said Hampstead.
Miller said that volunteers logged in a total of 254 hours in the elementary school in the volunteer program she heads. Volunteering under the program is structured and organized. Volunteers have to sign in and sign out of school. Each has a specially designated duty. They do not come into the building when they want, nor do they do what they want.
When the volunteer starts, he or she fills out an application blank and has a background check. Woodbridge has an open door policy for parents who wish to become volunteers. At the beginning of the year the child takes home a form called an "interest finder" on which the parent or parents can indicate the desire to help as a volunteer. Each volunteer comes in through Pam Miller. She places them and knows where each is at all times.
Miller has about six volunteers on a regular basis, with additional ones when a field trip occurs. "They add that special touch," she says. "Volunteers do various things - they cut things, file, work in the music room and computer room as well as the library. They work one-on-one and with small groups of students."
Miller says that the cafeteria has three volunteers at the beginning of each school year for first graders. "They help the children find their straw, their milk or their sauces for chicken nuggets. It's a new process for these young children to go through a lunch line and have to remember the different items. In kindergarten and pre-school they had a snack. They had everything there, and everything was much smaller - just one class at a time. It's scary when they walk into this school. In kindergarten everything was in one hallway. Here the cafeteria is pretty much at the opposite end of the building. We have volunteers to help them, and other volunteers to help them get from the bus to the classroom."
Hampstead, Woodbridge's former volunteer coordinator, interjects, "Volunteers make teacher's lives easier and a lot better in a lot of ways."
"Volunteers do a lot of things," added Miller. "They go into a classroom and let kids read to them at the back of the classroom. Two foster grandparents, who are sisters, are here for a third year for each of them. The children love them both. They are here every day Tuesday through Friday for four hours from 12:30-4:30. Ribbons were made up for them last year - called 'Grandma Ribbons.' "
The Rev. Willie Savage sums it up pretty well. "To the world you may be only one person, but to one person you may be the world."
"And so we invite everyone," adds Miller.