While the nation celebrates Thanksgiving this week, District 197 would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all of the volunteers in our district. Volunteers can be found in every school every day of the week. Without our volunteers, we could not provide the kinds of support and services our students and staff have come to rely on as we seek to educate each and every young person in our schools. We are deeply grateful for their service.
The number of ways in which our community contributes time and talent is vast and are too numerous to list here. But to illustrate my point, I'd like to tell you about one program which has made a deep and lasting impact on a school and the students within the school for more than a generation.
For over two decades the "Special Pals in Fun and Friendship" volunteer program at Somerset Elementary, known as SPIFF, has been a mainstay at Somerset. SPIFF began as the brainchild of second grade teacher Alex Messicci. Today, the entire second grade and its team of teachers at Somerset participate.
SPIFF connects a second grader at Somerset with an older adult. Students wait all fall to meet their "pal." This rite of passage at Somerset is a big deal. The entire second grade class gathers in the gym, and one by one the children's names are called. They proudly walk over to where their pal awaits. Smiles beam across the room.
Last Friday, SPIFF celebrated 25 years at Somerset. Twenty-five years is a long time! Over 1,700 friendships have been formed since its inception. The duration of the program is a testament to the power of inter-generational relationships. Such relationships help children develop socially, emotionally, and intellectually. But it's not just about the kids and their development. The SPIFF program warms the heart and minds of the older adults as well. Most come back year after year. While they give their time to a child, they insist what they get back is tenfold. It is a simple concept that has such profound impact...by giving one receives far more.
SPIFF is just one example of the way in which our community supports our children through volunteering. No matter what role a volunteer plays, large or small, each volunteer makes a difference! So to all our parents, all of our senior citizens, all of our business partners, and everyone in between, thank you. School District 197 would simply not be the same without you.
Nancy Allen-Mastro, Superintendent