The Power of Volunteerism
It all started at a Women United Luncheon.
“The speaker was highlighting the power of volunteerism. My mom peeked over at me and said, ‘Come on Steffie; we’ll do it together.’ I didn’t know what I was agreeing to, but it turns out, it was an awesome decision.”
Stephanie Maxwell is a 26-year-old entrepreneur. Her mom, Saranne Maxwell, is an attorney and member of Women United. Together, the duo volunteers for Power Lunch, a partnership between Mile High United Way and Denver Public Schools that pairs an elementary school student with a volunteer to help them become strong readers by third grade.
Last school year, Stephanie and Saranne read with Adryen once a week and now they are working with Tina. Stephanie says, “The improvement we saw in Adryen last year was incredible. She never missed a Wednesday session and showed more than one year of growth in reading proficiency during the school year. This was a kid who could barely sit still, wasn’t a strong reader and was really hard on herself. She’s come so far! This year, our student, Tina, is calmer and more focused, but she can be timid, so we are working on building her confidence.”
Together, Stephanie and Saranne work with their students to recognize punctuation, decipher sentence structure and better comprehend what they read. The students also benefit from working with two generations of successful women. “Sometimes it was clear that Adryen needed Steffie and sometimes she responded better to my style. It was nice that we can each offer our unique perspectives,” says Saranne.
“I just love the experience of volunteering with my daughter. It really means a lot to us.”
The learning experience that takes place in all Power Lunch classrooms is reciprocal. Promoting literacy and a passion for reading are the ultimate goals, but the friendships and expanded perspectives of both the student and volunteer are just as important.
And, thanks to support from people like you, the program is working. Based on evaluation data from Denver Public Schools and Mile High United Way from the pilot year, the Power Lunch program produces impressive results: 100% of teachers surveyed stated that Power Lunch helped their students develop fluency, vocabulary, confidence and the ability to bond with an adult, and 91% of volunteers surveyed said that Power Lunch made their day more enjoyable.