A different return to school: Support students and parents through volunteerism

Published on September 2, 2020 in

Dozens of unique school reopening plans are being implemented by districts across the region, leaving only one thing for certain: School will look different for the foreseeable future.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many districts are choosing an online approach while others are kicking off the year in a hybrid manner, offering virtual learning along with limited in-person options. Detroit – the region’s largest district – is offering face-to-face learning for all 50,000 students, and a virtual option for those who want or need to stay home.

The uncertain nature of returning to school during a pandemic means students are coping with a new reality each day and many parents, whose resources were already stretched thin, are facing new challenges.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 44 percent of families in Southeastern Michigan were struggling to afford their basic needs. Now, that number has grown.

“We know that this crisis has created major hardships for even more families than before,” said Kristen Cibulskis, volunteer engagement manager at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “Whether it’s due to a lost job or lost income, or decreased access to resources such as food and education, families are hurting.”

In addition to schools, many educational and afterschool programs are moving online, creating an increased need for virtual volunteers.

“If you’re an individual who can give your time through volunteerism, your help is needed now more than ever,” Kristen said.

Below are a few ways you can support students and their families through volunteer activities this school year.

Get creative  – You can help to ensure all families have essential items to fuel education at home and make the most of quality time together by creating DIY Children and Family Enrichment Kits. The easy-to-create kits include items like puzzles, workbooks and games that combine education and fun. Get your friends and neighbors involved by hosting a virtual or socially distanced drive to collect donated items for the kits.

Build relationships – Mentoring can have a lasting positive impact on a student’s personal, academic, and professional success. This fall, Life Remodeled and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit, are partnering with Durfee Elementary-Middle School to launch a mentoring program that will match adult mentors with students. Over the course of the 12-month commitment, mentors and mentees will engage in conversations and activities that will encourage strong relationships and help students build 21st Century Skills. Volunteering will begin on a virtual platform and transition to face-to-face when appropriate.

Empower students – School closures and stay-at-home orders have had a tremendous impact on high school students’ education as well as their social and emotional development, according to Winning Futures. When school resumes this fall, students will encounter a vastly different and, in some ways, even more challenging academic experience. As a virtual mentor, your support can help students navigate their new normal and work towards a brighter future.

Master math – Math skills are critical to long-term success. From balancing a budget to shopping to career growth, math plays a key role. But many students struggle with higher math concepts and don’t know where to look for assistance outside of the classroom. You can help make private tutoring more accessible for everyone by becoming a tutor with Urban Neighborhood Initiatives. The organization is looking for tutors that have experience working with high school students in their academic curriculum and tutors with experience in geometry are preferred.

Donate supplies – School supply lists are expanding this year. Whether it’s devices to enable at-home learning or personal protection equiptment and cleaning supplies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it likely means an added cost to parents. Detroit Housing Commission is aiming to reduce the burden through their Back 2 School Pull Up Tour, which will offer free supplies to students, and they need your help. Donations of traditional school supplies such as backpacks, pencils and crayons are welcome along with face shields, cleaning supplies, computers, tablets and more to create a safe learning environment.

For even more ways to help, visit our volunteer portal, which offers virtual and socially distanced, in-person volunteer opportunities to meet the needs of our community while protecting the health and safety of our volunteers.