March 16, 2013

Citizens of the Week: Community Cats volunteers

From Staff Reports

— It’s no secret teachers might feel spread thin these days. Long hours, tight education budgets and larger teacher-student ratios can sometimes make education a daunting job.

But teachers are not alone. Not if the Community Cats volunteers have their way.

Several community members — including parents, high school students and college students — have formed the Community Cats program as a way to offer help to teachers during the day. The volunteers go into Dalton Public Schools classrooms weekly to read to students, help them with math problems and assist teachers in all kinds of instruction.

Mary Julian Renz, a teacher at City Park Elementary School, said having volunteers helps lower the student-teacher ratio and increase one-on-one time with each student. Diana Guzman, a student at Morris Innovative High School, is one helper.

“(Having Guzman read to students) boosted their fluency and their self-esteem,” Renz said. “She’s very self-assured and polite and respectful ... she’s just a good role model for our students.”

Guzman is one of 29 students from Morris Innovative who helps students at all elementary schools in the city.

Paige Watts, Community Cats coordinator for Morris Innovative, said high school students make the best volunteers because they can inspire a younger generation though example.

“It’s getting the students out there and getting them to feel valued,” she added.

For volunteering their time to educate elementary students and assist local teachers, The Daily Citizen names the Community Cats volunteers Citizens of the Week.