We live in a fast-paced city where our jobs, families and responsibilities fill our schedules each week. It’s difficult to find space in our schedules for relaxation and time with our family and friends. When life begins to feel overwhelming, we often find ourselves eliminating the activities that are the most rewarding and fulfilling. Our time is one of the most valuable things we have; for a child, our time is one of the most important things we can give.

Whether you’re reading, tutoring or just spending time hanging out, you can make an investment in a child’s future and a significant impact in his or her life. Adolescence is a crucial time when children form their identities and learn about resilience and social competencies. Low-income students are even more vulnerable to violence, lack of nutrition and risk-taking behaviors. Studies have shown that children who are mentored are less likely to use drugs and skip school, and they are more likely to develop trusting and supportive relationships.

With recent CPS budget cuts in after school programming, there is a tremendous need for mentoring and programs to support children in our city. Every month over 350 Chicago Cares education volunteers engage with students, teaching them about the importance of fitness, how science can be fun, and conflict resolution. With a new school year, even more volunteers are needed as our programs expand. Volunteers are needed to read with students and teach them how to express themselves through the arts.

Although our education programs incorporate academics and the arts, education volunteers are not expected to be science experts, artists or teachers. They are everyday people from diverse backgrounds and skills. Do you enjoy sports? Are you passionate about literacy? Can you give encouragement and positive words? Then you can be an education volunteer!

In a recent survey of education volunteers many people noted positive personal, social and professional benefits from their service. Education community service partners also described the impact volunteers have on their students:

“My service in this program has strengthened my passion for teaching and social justice.” 

“It has been a positive influence on me and made me learn a lot more about myself. The kids very much enjoy the individualized attention from the volunteers and many volunteers continued to come back week after week, building a connection with the kids.”

“The students were excited to complete fun projects and didn’t even seem to realize they were learning about reading in the process.” -Brennemann Elementary school teacher, Susan Bronder

“Sherwood school students have benefited in many ways. Students are engaged in high quality programs that enhance reading, math and writing. The programs also help our children enhance their social skills and attitude towards school. In addition, students work with volunteers who are from various backgrounds which allow our children to be exposed to many different cultures and individuals.” -Principal Alice Buzanis, Sherwood Elementary

With over 65 volunteer programs in 16 community areas of Chicago, education programs are a convenient and easy way to get involved and help a child. Programs are built to accommodate volunteer availability and schedules, usually occurring twice a month on week nights or Saturdays. Our most successful programs have a strong group of consistent volunteers. Do you have 3-4 hours a month to mentor children in your community?  Sign up today with a friend or family member!

Today’s post is from Alisha Flores, Senior Manager of Education