Enriching Lives Through Volunteering

"Ms. Firestone's generosity has provided these kids with a safe place where they can extend their learning after school."
Enriching Lives Through Volunteering

Today, a group of students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Hartford are learning about Hawaii, but they don’t know it yet. Their instructor, Carrie Firestone of Avon, leads them through a rousing game of word BINGO that includes some clues about the day’s ‘mystery state.’

Carrie knows her way around a classroom. Before the birth of her daughters, she was a school teacher. “Running an after-school enrichment workshop was a natural choice for me when I was looking for a volunteer opportunity,” says Carrie.

About once per week, 30 students – mostly 3rd and 4th graders – join Carrie and her daughters, Emily (age 9) and Lauren (age 7) after school to learn about states and capitols. Anything is a clue – state birds, resources, flowers, fruit, dances, traditions, history. Through crafts and games, props and even treats – today it was pineapple and bananas – Carrie teaches the kids about geography, with a particular focus on nature.

The Village partners with MLK to provide a Family Resource Center inside of the school, which coordinates a variety of early childhood and family support services to foster the healthy development of children and families.

After-school enrichment is one of the many services provided by the Family Resource Center, and Joseph Kalapele, center director, is grateful for Carrie’s help in bringing her geography lessons to the school.

Carrie Firestone volunteers once a week to run an after school program at MLK Elementary School. Joseph Kalapele, family resource center director there, looks on.

“Ms. Firestone’s generosity has provided these kids with a safe place where they can extend their learning after school,” says Joseph. Carrie credits her upbringing for instilling in her a desire to give back to the community. Her father runs a community hunger coalition. And, she asserts, it’s easy for anyone of any means to get involved.

“You don’t have to be a teacher to run an after school activity,” says Carrie. “You could start a Lego club, or bring a bunch of board games. These kids just need positive interaction and support in a nurturing environment.”

Judging by the enthusiasm of the kids, they are clearly having fun. And, equally obvious, they are learning. As the class comes to close, the kids all shout their new vocabulary word as they leave the room – “Aloha, Miss Firestone!”

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