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A Lesson Taught by the Students - Volunteering at School #22

Active Help

Active HelpActively Help is one of ShoreTel’s core corporate values and the reach it spans is truly inspiring.  You see it in the day to day activities within and across teams in both small and more significant ways.  One example is a peer taking the time to help another team member learn by providing ad-hoc positive coaching on the spot.  Another example is cross-functional team members volunteering to put in extra hours to help a project that was not anticipated and benefits our clients and business.

Actively Help also goes beyond the organization with volunteer initiatives that support the local communities where ShoreTel has a presence.  There are numerous examples of this and the one I’d like to highlight is volunteering at Rochester’s City School #22.  This opportunity was presented by ShoreTel HR at the beginning of the 2012 school year and many Rochester ShoreTel employees signed up to help including myself.

Rochester City School #22

I was assigned to Mr. Birthwright’s 3rd grade class and began each Wednesday in his classroom assisting specific students with their ‘bell work’ and first work assignment for the day.

This classroom setting was very different from those I’ve experienced with my own children who are part of the rural / suburb school district.  The children from School 22 often carry a very heavy emotional burden for those so young and often time is needed at the start of the day to help transition them back into the expected behavior within the classroom.  I have great admiration and respect for Mr. Birthwright as it is very evident he deeply cares about the success of these children, not only in learning but also becoming solid citizens.

School 22

As a volunteer, I primarily helped the few children I was assigned to work with one on one to help them stay focused so they don’t fall behind.  I also helped out at one of the stations as small groups of students read and responded to critical- thinking  exercises.  However, I feel the bigger impact I had was being able to offer encouragement, demonstrate reliability and send them positive messages about  them as people.  An example of this is when a little girl said, “I can’t do this.  I’m stupid!” while she tossed down her pencil.  I responded, “You are very smart.  This is a hard question so you just need to work harder” and then went on to break it down so she could work her way through it – which she did!  The smile on her face when she made the breakthrough was priceless as it was accompanied by confidence!

Positive Encouragement Means Everything

I also believe I helped make positive memories for this class when my daughter, Ashtin, joined me two Wednesday’s when she was home for Christmas break from her Freshman year at East Carolina University.  The kids all swarmed around her and listened so attentively when she spoke to the class.  I was so proud, too, as she spoke about her adjustment to her first year of college, how it is really hard but that doesn’t mean she’s not smart just that she has to work harder and study more.  The only guidance I had provided her when she asked what she should talk about was to speak about something that would be meaningful to these kids.  I know these experiences have also touched my daughter and will help shape her as she continues to make her way into adulthood.

I feel very fortunate to belong to a company that believes in the importance of giving back to our community and is supportive of these initiatives.  I know the experience has impacted me personally as I feel inspired by these resilient young people and so deeply want them to move forward into a more positive tomorrow.  What is cannot be changed, but each of us has the opportunity to extend hope and help shape more humanity into what’s to come.  A mere hour a week to a young child may result in a major trajectory change!  Let’s get even more volunteers for the 2013-2014 school year!

How is your company giving back?