by Kate Evans
The Morgan County Schools PASS program desperately needs volunteers to work oneon-one with students to make a difference in their lives and education.
PASS stands for Providing Academic and Self-Esteem Support. PASS volunteers meet with an individual student for a half an hour every week during the school year. They help kids with schoolwork and homework, do educational activities and games and become a mentor and friend, said Karen Whisner, county PASS program coordinator.
Whisner is the Widmyer Elementary PASS coordinator. They also need school PASS coordinators.
The PASS program was discontinued in Morgan County Schools for several years due to the COVID pandemic. Whisner said they’re hoping to get the program up and running again for this school year.
All Morgan County Schools are in need of PASS volunteers. Some P ASS volunteers have worked individually with multiple students in the past.
Lost many PASS volunteers
They lost a lot of PASS volunteers from people having medical problems, family medical issues, family emergencies, COVID, injury, other illness or from people moving away or going back to work, Whisner said.
Whisner has just two returning PASS volunteers at present and one new PASS volunteer that she’s completing the paperwork and background check on now. A couple other people have expressed interest.
PASS volunteers may spend time helping kids with their homework or tutoring them in school subjects. They might play board games or other games together, read books, work with flash cards, do arts and crafts, work on science fair or social studies fair projects, write a book report or just talk. Students may need help with reading, language skills or math, Whisner said.
A PASS volunteer might also help a child with schoolwork, organization, social skills, behavior issues or self esteem and self-confidence.
Some students have said that their PASS mentor’s support kept them from dropping out of school, Whisner said.
Children blossom from their PASS mentor’s encouragement, care and guidance and gain more confidence in their abilities. Several PASS students have won the Rotary Club’s most improved student award, Whisner said.
PASS volunteers provide a positive adult role model for kids. Volunteers enjoy spending time with the children and teens and being part of their life and development.
Returning PASS volunteer Carol Klaproth volunteered with the program for a couple of years before COVID began. Klaproth is hoping to be a PASS volunteer again this year.
As a PASS volunteer, Klaproth worked with multiple students at Widmyer Elementary, Warm Springs Intermediate School and Warm Springs Middle School on different days of the week.
Klaproth said she played games with kids, did homework help, worked on some of their reading, whatever they wanted to do. A lot of her PASS students wanted to play board games like Mancala, Candyland and Boggle. Klaproth said they also made arts and crafts, worked with math flash cards and spent time talking.
Klaproth said she has always enjoyed working with children and would encourage others to become PASS volunteers. It’s also rewarding when you see a child accomplish something, she noted.
“If you’re retired, it gives you something to do and gets you out of the house,” Klaproth added.
Klaproth said that kids need to learn to read and that she likes to help them out.
“If you can’t read, you can’t understand what you’re supposed to do,” she stressed.
The need is great
Whisner said she doesn’t yet have an estimate yet of how many kids need a PASS volunteer for the school year as teachers are still learning their students’ abilities. She noted that “the need is great. It’s always great.”
Whisner felt that the need is much greater now since so many kids lost ground academically during the pandemic. Students all across the country are so far behind, she said. School staff is thrilled that the PASS program is coming back.
Whisner is calling all previous PASS volunteers to see if they are available. She is scheduled to speak at the Rotary Club.
PASS volunteers must take the two-hour PASS training and have a criminal background check done, which the schools pay for, said Whisner. PASS volunteer candidates also are required to bring three letters of recommendation from non-family community members.
Whisner conducts the required two-hour training for PASS volunteers, which are scheduled as needed around volunteers’ schedules.
Over the years, the Morgan County Commission, the Morgan County School Board, local businesses and churches have encouraged employees and members to become PASS volunteers. School administrators, teachers and staff have also been great supporters, Whisner said.
Whisner said that anyone can be a PASS volunteer, including retirees, county employees, school staff, high school students, church members, local workers and parents. They need people that want to help children to come forward and volunteer.
Whisner is available to speak to local churches or service organizations about the PASS program.
Call Whisner at 304-2584133 if you would like to become a PASS volunteer or have her talk to your organization.