Community pitches in at Hayden Valley Elementary School | SteamboatToday.com

Community pitches in at Hayden Valley Elementary School

Zach Fridell

— The volunteers at Hayden Valley Elementary School wear many hats while volunteering with the Helping All to Succeed program. From helping teachers with clerical work to one-on-one tutoring for students who need an extra boost, the HATS volunteers help the school operate smoothly.

HATS, in its fourth year, brings parents, grandparents and other interested community members into the building to give coaching time with students and assistance to teachers.

“It’s trying to connect the generations of people in the community,” program coordinator Melanie Neton said.

LaDeana Cook, a mother with two students in the school, volunteers two days a week.

“This school needs a lot of volunteers,” she said. “There is a lot that the teachers have to stay after school to get done.”

Cook divides her time between working with students on reading programs and assisting with clerical work, from cutting out shapes to copying papers for the teachers.

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Neton said all volunteers have the choice of what work they would like to do in the building, and many divide their time in the same way.

“It’s a great place to spend your time, and you get to spend time with your children,” Cook said. “You get to see what goes on at the school.”

Cook has been working with the program for three years, and although she said she likes to see her children, Brondrian and Lane Ferguson, who are in third and second grades, respectively, she also works with other classrooms throughout the day.

“I love it. I do. I don’t have a dull day,” she said.

The program was created by a group of parents who were interested in volunteering at the school and wanted to become more involved in their children’s education. Since that time, the program has expanded to include Neton as the coordinator. Last year, 26 volunteers worked in the school regularly – from one hour to five days per week – but Neton said volunteer numbers have decreased to about 20.

“There are a lot of slots to fill,” Neton said. Teachers submit requests for specific programs or students in the classrooms.

The program also has expanded in the past two years as Neton has secured grants providing support for the volunteers and recognizing their work.

Julie Sutton, whose granddaughter Cassidy Crawford is in second grade, said she volunteers because she wants to help Cassidy and because, as a retired teacher, she recognizes the importance of reading education.

“I think it’s a terrific program, and I think it makes a difference,” she said. “(Reading education) has always been important to me. Reading is the foundation of everything we do in society, and if you don’t have that, you’re going to struggle.”

School principal Rhonda Sweetser said that having return volunteers such as Sutton come into the building helps the students receive a consistent education and bond with the workers.

“They develop such great relationships with the kids,” she said. “It’s awesome to have another set of hands to do math games, run copies or whatever is needed.”

As HATS volunteer Joice Baker organized homework folders in her classroom, first-grade teacher Lori Hornstein said she appreciated the assistance the volunteers provide.

“They can do some of the things we don’t have time for,” she said. “It also helps (students) to reiterate a lot of what we are doing and what we expect them to learn.”

To volunteer, visit the school’s office at 300 Breeze Basin in Hayden during school hours.