Falmouth VIPS Volunteers Approaching 1,000,000-Hour Mark

The Falmouth Volunteers In Public Schools (VIPS) program recognized the contributions of its volunteers and celebrated the efforts of volunteers, students, and supporters at its annual volunteer recognition dinner on June 17 at the Coonamessett Inn.

VIPS began in 1982 as a way to connect the community to the public schools. What started with eight volunteers at Falmouth High School, today includes nearly 1,000 volunteers who spend time at each of Falmouth’s seven schools.

In the 31 years the program has been in existence, volunteers have logged 986,626 hours, making it one of the most active public school volunteering programs in the state.

During the recognition event, VIPS director Tracey Crago highlighted some of the year’s achievements, including the school-based mentoring programs which match trained volunteer mentors with a student in need of a friend and role model. Currently, 80 students meet with a mentor once each week throughout the school year.

VIPS mentoring programs have achieved the Partner level of membership in the Mass Mentoring Program’s Quality-based membership program, reserved for programs that meet the highest standards for mentor training, support, and evaluation.

Another accomplishment this year is the expansion of the Girls Circle program. VIPS partners with Suzie Hauptmann at Falmouth Human Services, along with school counselors, and trained volunteer facilitators to offer Circles for girls in grades 4 to 12.

The Cross-Age Science Teaching Program (CAST) that pairs 8th grade “science buddies” with 3rd graders to hands-on teach electrical energy lessons, and the expansion of the Junior Achievement program at the elementary school level were also highlighted, as were the FHS Peer Mentoring Program that matches high school juniors and seniors with students in grades 5 to 8 in need of a role model and the FHS College Mentoring Program, headed by Jack Zorski, which pairs economically disadvantaged students with a mentor working in the field in which the student is interested.

Ms. Crago also highlighted the importance of grant support in sustaining and growing the VIPS programs. Funding from the Cape and Islands United Way, the Falmouth Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation, Cape Cod Five Charitable Foundation, Falmouth Substance Abuse Commission, Falmouth Prevention Partnership, Falmouth Education Foundation, Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, the Bilezikian Family Foundation, and the Woods Hole Foundation have made it possible for VIPS to expand and enhance existing programs, while developing new programming areas.

At Tuesday’s Volunteer Recognition Dinner, special recognition honors were bestowed upon individuals from each school whose efforts are considered outstanding by fellow volunteers, staff members, and students. This year’s winners include Monica Bleiler from Falmouth High School, who created the “Well Grounded” project, a service learning initiative for teenagers designed to meld academics, community service, and hands-on hard work while cultivating student skills in civics, presentation and outreach abilities, and business partnerships; Paul Laurino from Lawrence School, a retired educator for his involvement with the school’s Literacy Committee and as an advisor and supporter of Lawrence staff members; Kathy Martino from Morse Pond, whose involvement in countless projects at multiple schools over many years is an example of what volunteerism is about; Kerry Munroe from East Falmouth Elementary School, whose contributions to numerous school events and playground fundraising efforts pushed the project over the finish line; Lynn Briggs and Lyn Cenzalli from Mullen-Hall Elementary School, who organize projects, events, and initiatives and wearing many hats; David Bird from North Falmouth Elementary, whose hands-on work has resulted in student artwork ranging from weaving and watercolor projects to leaf prints, tooth fairy pillows, and Valentine’s Day mailboxes; and Sheila Topping from Teaticket Elementary School, whose works year round preparing for the annual holiday fair.

This year’s recipients received engraved plates designed for VIPS by Woods Hole potter Tessa Lineaweaver.

The VIPS Board of Advisors also recognized Cheryl Atherton, whose efforts serve many schools and the greater community. Ms. Crago said Ms. Atherton epitomizes the spirit of volunteerism in the truest sense. “Whether working one on one with a student as a mentor, or a group of girls in the Girls Circle program, or helping out with fundraising, school, or community events, this volunteer has an endless reserve of time, energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that she dedicates to making kids’ lives better.”

In addition to the many adult volunteers, VIPS encourages and supports student volunteers. This year, the VIPS Board of Advisors funded scholarships to two Class of 2014 Falmouth High School graduates who exemplified a dedication to volunteerism and community service. This year’s recipients were Molly Bagg and Lily Josephs. Molly, daughter of Christine Junqueira of Waquoit, will attend the University of Tampa. Lily, daughter of David and Jodi Josephs of East Falmouth, will attend the University of New Hampshire. This year’s scholarships were made possible by the VIPS Board of Advisors and the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

This year’s VIPS recognition event was sponsored by Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Lawrence Lynch Corporation, Encore of Falmouth, and the VIPS Board of Advisors.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities available for the 2014-15 school year, contact the VIPS office at 508-548-1621 or vips@falmouth.k12.ma.us.

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