School program direly needs volunteers
The Morgan County Schools PASS program desperately needs additional volunteers to work one-on-one with students, said Karen Whisner, county PASS program coordinator. They could use 60 to 70 volunteers right now and still not cover the need, Whisner said.
PASS stands for Providing Academic and Self-Esteem Support. PASS volunteers meet with an individual student for a minimum of a half an hour every week during the school year. They help kids with schoolwork, do activities and become a mentor and friend.
Whisner is also the Widmyer Elementary PASS coordinator, where she has 22 students that need a PASS mentor.
There are around 20 Warm Springs Intermediate School students and 20 Warm Springs Middle School students that also need PASS volunteers. Plus, teachers tell Whisner they have more children that they’re not referring to the program because there are no volunteers available.
The smaller schools are holding their own with volunteers right now, Whisner said.
The PASS program currently serves between 55 and 60 students countywide with around 40 volunteers. Some volunteers work individually with multiple students, Whisner said.
Students are referred to the PASS program for many reasons, Whisner said. They can include poor grades or attendance, lack of basic academic skills, low self-confidence, difficulties relating to others, disruptive behavior, attitude problems or family issues.
PASS volunteers help children with homework or difficult subjects like reading, spelling or math. They play educational games, like memory, money, shopping or strategy games, Whisner said. A volunteer may work with a child on social skills, goal-setting or organization.
Volunteers may play sports with kids, do crafts, read books, work on flash cards or a science or social studies fair project or just spend time talking.
The PASS program is in place at all Morgan County elementary schools and at the middle school level. The program is also available to some high school students that wish to remain in the program.
Potential PASS volunteers must undergo a fingerprint background check, the cost of which is paid for by the school system.
They must also present a valid photo driver’s license to a school LobbyGuard visitor kiosk, which will screen them through the sex offender registry. Reporting prior arrests or conviction of offenses involving a misconduct toward a minor is mandatory on the school volunteer application.
In addition to the above screening, PASS volunteers must give three community references, pass a tuberculosis test or produce proof of a recent TB test and go through two hours of PASS program training with Whisner.
With the current company that’s handling the background checks, potential PASS volunteers must travel to either Martinsburg on Mondays or to Keyser on Wednesdays to be fingerprinted, Whisner said.
The background check and TB test don’t take long to process, she said. After applying, with approval and training, volunteers could be ready to work one-on-one with a child within several weeks.
Whisner schedules daytime, evening or weekend trainings for individuals or small groups as needed—in homes, businesses, churches, schools and with organizations.
Trainings include program guidelines, dos and don’ts, frequently asked questions, how to work with children of different grade levels and capabilities, ideas for activities, website resources and tips for helping students with spelling, reading and math.
Whisner also covers what to do in the event of a fire drill, lockdown, evacuation or other school emergency.
Many children blossom under the encouragement, care and guidance given to them by their PASS volunteer. Whisner is always thrilled when former PASS students return to give back to the program that helped them by serving as volunteers.
Men and women from all walks of life are welcome as volunteers, Whisner said. They also have some high school student PASS volunteers.
They have many women PASS volunteers, but also need more men volunteers who could serve as role models for boys, she said.
The Morgan County Commission, the Morgan County School Board, local businesses and churches have encouraged employees and members to become PASS volunteers. School administrators, teachers and staff also serve as PASS mentors, Whisner said.
Superintendent Dave Banks has made having a mentor for each child a top focus.
Call Whisner at Widmyer Elementary at 258-2024 if you would like to become a PASS volunteer.