Today the blog’s Big Shout Out goes to City of Austin employees.
There are a lot of reasons to love Austin, and working in a city that recognizes the value of volunteering is a good one.
Because of the efforts of our friends at Austin Energy, city employees stay informed of educational volunteer programs all over town. This school year, 156 of our Classroom Coaches work for the City of Austin, and several more serve as mentors. Katie Arens and Ben Ornelas are community liaisons, and in that capacity they recruit volunteers for the Austin Independent School District who participate in the Austin Partners in Education math and reading classroom coaching programs. In addition they also assist four other education-based non-profits with similar programs with AISD. The city employs more than 12,000 people and views its employees’ volunteer commitment to community programs as an important asset in serving the City of Austin.
Since 2004 Austin has thrown some serious muscle behind the volunteer effort by allowing employees to track their time in the classroom for approved programs as administrative leave. Employees get the hour in the classroom needed for Classroom Coaching and mentoring, and they can also take up to 30 minutes each way for drive time, totaling up to two hours a week of approved service. This allows these caring and intelligent city workers to share their expertise with kids anywhere in Austin ISD.
Each department has a designated coordinator who makes sure all of the employees know the options available to help improve their community. A total of more than 80 volunteer presentations happen yearly within the departments. A luncheon at the end of the year honors those who volunteered.
“It is always so exciting to see the large number of employees from every department who join this program each year,” says Katie. “They always have the best stories about their tutoring or mentoring experience, and it is this enthusiasm that keeps me motivated to get others involved.”
It’s a serious commitment to service, and it starts from the top down. Marc Ott, City Manager, mentors a student at one of our elementary schools, and has for several years. Kathy Garland with Austin Water Utility is starting her fourth year as a Classroom Coach. Jeff Vice at Austin Energy is mentoring and coaching. Sharon Edwards has done a remarkable job getting dozens of our city library personnel involved. Sergio Rodriguez has been helping in our Spanish language coaching, Compañeros en Lectura.
Big departments have big numbers and small departments have high percentages. “We do have large teams from the bigger departments, but it’s important to also realize that some departments do so much so with so little,” said Ben Ornelas, Schools and Community Outreach Liaison. “We have departments that only have ten people and half of them volunteer.” Ben has been with the city for 31 years, and was a board member with the Chamber of Commerce when it partnered with AISD to create Austin Partners in Education.
“I am very proud to serve in this capacity and every year look forward to meeting our goal of one mentor or tutor for each child in need,” says Ben.
We’ll be highlighting a few City employees during this school year on our Volunteer Spotlight page. Stay up to date on Austin Partners in Education news by fanning our Facebook page, then watch for updates and get to know your neighbors.