The #SOCSDMentorMonday Facebook campaign highlights community members who directly mentor students on a sustained, voluntary basis through our schools. Through their dedicated volunteerism, mentors offer students meaningful opportunities to explore interests and career pathways–and to develop real world job skills.
Mentor Tracy DeFeciani has been running William O. Schaefer Elementary School’s garden program as a mentor volunteer for the past seven years. “I started with a little garden and Mrs. Schaefer’s class when my oldest son was in second grade. We’d meet on Fridays and everyone got their hands dirty! My sons are now in sixth- and eighth grades at South Orangetown Middle School, but I’ve stayed with the garden because I really enjoy it,” Tracey explained. “Three years ago, I built the large garden that exists today. With 22 classes now participating, it is impossible for me to meet every class out in the garden as I have a full-time job. So, I put together ‘garden boxes’ that include instructions for the day, seeds, seed markers and all materials needed and place them in the garden beds. Classes come out with their teachers and parent volunteers at their assigned times and hunt for their box. I return in the evenings to do a little garden maintenance and collect the boxes to refill for the next week’s tasks. My philosophy is to have the kids do the work, it’s all hands-on out in the garden.”
Volunteering has been part of Tracy’s life since childhood. “Mentoring is just something I was raised to do and something I really enjoy. Throughout my life, my parents were always and still are volunteering their time to give back to their community. With six children and full-time jobs, they both still found the time to be a volunteer firefighter, a scout leader, to work at a local food pantry, and are just always there to give someone a helping hand. They both help me in the WOS garden each year as well,” she said. “For me, the best part of mentoring is the people I meet along the way, as well as the opportunity to see the impact I’m making on those I offer my time to. When it comes to the WOS garden, the best part is the curiosity, excitement and smiles of the students – oh, and the chance to get my hands dirty playing in the dirt!”
The #SOCSDMentorMonday campaign will extend throughout the spring. Interested in mentoring students in your field of expertise? Contact Family Engagement Center Coordinator AJ Walker at [email protected].