Parkside Elementary School in East Naples is a unique community-based school. It is the only Collier County public school where no students are bussed, nearly 90% of the students come from homes where only Spanish or Haitian Creole is spoken, and where most grandparents live in other countries, principally the Caribbean. Since it opened in 2007, Parkside has qualified as a Title I School, receiving federal assistance because of the high percentage of students from low-income families: some 97% of its students participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program.
Parkside is fortunate to have a team of dedicated and hardworking administrators, teachers and support staff, headed by principal Tamie Stewart. In her third year as principal, Stewart already can point to important accomplishments. Most significantly, Parkside was one of only two schools in Florida to improve its state ranking last year from an “F” to a “C”.
The school also has added new activities, designed to provide opportunities for learning and fun that many other Collier County schools already enjoy. Such initiatives include the East Naples Kiwanis-sponsored “BUG” Program (Bring-Up-Your-Grades) involving 200 students, grades two through five, through extracurricular reading; and the recent establishment of a Publishing Center, which encourages students to share their writings with friends and family.
Supporting the efforts of the staff are Parkside’s volunteers. One of the most significant efforts at the school recently has been the recruitment of more volunteers, principally retirees. Parkside’s long-term goal is finding a volunteer for each of school’s classes in every grade, ranging from preschool to fifth grade. The particular need is for enthusiastic, giving adults who will “adopt” classes as their own for at least three hours once per week during normal school hours (9 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.).
Many volunteer opportunities exist in the classroom, assisting the teacher through group or individual tutoring, reading, and writing, as well as in the media center, the publishing center, or participating in field trips. Volunteers choose the time and grade that suit their schedules and comfort levels.
Parkside students need adult role models and are starved for grandparents.We invite any adult to consider becoming a volunteer at this unique school. To arrange a personal, nonobligatory “get-acquainted” visit to the school, contact Tom Gemmer at 239-377-8900.
Having been a second grade school volunteer for the past 12 years, with the last two years at Parkside Elementary, I continue to be amazed by the many joys of my volunteer experience. It has been an extremely rewarding experience.
Rainer Olbrich, “Opa” retired from banking and lives in Naples with his wife Yuly. Rainer has four grandchildren–3 in CCPS’s–and is an avid community and school volunteer.