Betsy Ferguson has been volunteering through CIS at Albemarle Road Elementary School for two years now - but you'd think it was much longer than that, based on all the hours she's logged thus far! Maritza Whitsell, CIS Site Coordinator at Albemarle Road, says Betsy began volunteering with CIS in February 2011, tutoring one 3rd grade Burmese student. But after a few weeks of working with this student, she noticed how many more students who were newcomers to the U.S. needed additional assistance in the classroom.
"Pretty soon thereafter, Betsy began tutoring a small group of students, averaging about 25 hours a week," said Ms. Whitsell. "I thought she might get burned out, but she came back the next fall, ready to go!"
This school year, Betsy has been tutoring individuals and groups of students in a 5th grade classroom. She also represents CIS on a bi-monthly Family Night committee at Albemarle Road called the "Coalition of Albemarle Road Elementary School," or "C.A.R.E.S." The C.A.R.E.S. committee is comprised of different faith-based organizations that support Albemarle Road. This group saw the need to provide enrichment opportunities or "clubs" for the school families that often do not have positive outlets available for the children during after-school hours. Betsy has used her professional fundraising skills to bring in meal donations. Now the C.A.R.E.S. group is able to provide a free meal to all the families attending the bi-monthly events.
Betsy says she moved to Charlotte in 2010 and wanted to find a meaningful volunteer opportunity that she could be passionate about. She looked at many organizations and volunteered at a few, but ultimately chose CIS because she feels its mission of inspiring and helping high-risk students to complete their education is so important.
"I had also just seen the documentary Waiting for Superman about the crisis of our inner city public schools, and the movie's message was a personal call to action for me," added Betsy. "Our teachers are our unsung heroes and our nation's greatest asset and they need help. If every classroom had one volunteer, just a few hours per week, it would make such a tremendous difference."
But the best part for Betsy is getting to know the children and watching them learn.
"It’s really wonderful when you see a student realize how powerful knowledge is and that it can be the key to his or her success in the future," she said. "I am currently taking some continuing education classes at CPCC, so I tell the students that I am a student, too, and that I study every day and that it’s hard work but worth the effort. Hopefully I'm not too old to be a good role model!"
Betsy says the rewards are just as great for her, especially since she has no children of her own.
“Volunteering at Albemarle Road Elementary is a personally and spiritually enriching experience and the high point of my week,” says Betsy. “I’ve been fortunate to have had a great education and a successful career and now I want to do what I can to give back. The perks are awesome – hugs, smiles, thank you notes and hearing the kids’ heated debate over whose turn it is to sit next to me at lunch! Fortunately, 5th graders are more reasonable about this – last year, in 3rd grade, I had to keep a lunch date calendar that was booked a month in advance!”