The week of April 10 - 16, 2016 is reserved as National Volunteer Week around the country. LPS thanks all of our countless volunteers who are in our buildings each and every day making a difference in the lives of our students!
By David Boyce
Volunteer: A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertakes a task and performs the service willingly and without pay.
Millions of Americans volunteer on a daily basis. They are not looking for recognition or an award. They simply want to make their community a better and stronger place to live. From April 10 through April 16, volunteers are recognized nationally during National Volunteer Week. In 1974, President Richard Nixon gave volunteers more recognition when he signed a Presidential Proclamation.
Harold Phillips, a former associate pastor at Second Baptist Church in Liberty and now coordinator for CBF Heartland, fits the definition of what it means to volunteer. For two decades, Phillips, also a current member of the Liberty City Council, has taken 30-to-40 minutes out of his afternoon to walk to Franklin Elementary School and work with a student. It started one day 20 years ago when Marcia Duke, a counselor at Franklin Elementary, asked him if he could be a lunch buddy for a student.
“I said sure,” Phillips said. “It went well. It was enjoyable.”
Phillips continued to work with youth at Franklin, and eventually, the friends program that started in Kansas City became a more formalized program, now known as Youth Mentors. As a Youth Mentor, Phillips worked with a particular student until the student graduated and moved on to middle school and junior high.
“When that student was gone, Marcia asked if I wanted to continue, and I said sure,” Phillips said. “So we started with another student and stayed with that student until they graduated out of Franklin. I kept doing that. The kid I have now, I think we started when he was in first or second grade. He is graduating this year from Franklin. It is fun to see how they grow. They are tiny kids, and by the time they leave, their voices start to change a little bit. They are growing taller, and you can have more significant conversations with them, and their hobbies tend to mature. I remember one of the kids I had was big into Pokemon cards. That fad is long gone. Now they are into X-Box.”
Throughout Liberty Public Schools, there are dozens of Youth Mentors taking time out of their schedule to help children by being a positive role model. Phillips’ wife taught at Lewis and Clark Elementary for 17 years. She told him she once read a study that said the most significant impact on a child is from the influence from an adult who is not a parent or a teacher paid to like them.
“It is not that I have become that for these students, but you realize how a volunteer becomes one more positive voice in the life of a kid who is growing up,” Phillips said. “Some of these kids have some really rough backgrounds. You are not there to be a counselor. Some Youth Mentors are there to be tutors and really help kids to focus on school work. I come during lunch break and am there to be more of a friend. There are a variety of ways these volunteers come in and befriend students.”
For obvious reasons, Phillips thinks highly of LPS. His wife taught in the school district, and their daughter went kindergarten through high school graduation at Liberty Public Schools. Programs like Youth Mentors are another reason why Phillips thinks so highly of LPS.
“You see the care and compassion of teachers and counselors who desire to have volunteers come in and work with a student,” Phillips said. “They don’t see that as a disruption. They see that as an enhancement in the education of their kids. Selfishly, there is an element that you are doing something to help someone else.”