What’s Your Story?

Here we want to share the stories of our wonderful volunteers and what it means to them to be involved. Whether it’s chaperoning a field trip, delivering a meal or chairing a committee, we hope you’ll be inspired to have your own story.

Five years ago, our only child started at Duveneck as a Kindergartner.  We didn’t know anyone at the school, and we quickly learned that we had a lot to learn about life at Duveneck. My wife and I were both working demanding jobs, so it was difficult for us to do much beyond the basics initially. However, we wanted to invest in and become part of the school community. We just didn’t know how or where to start.
Thankfully, our room parents were awesome. They made the effort to make us feel welcome, show us the ropes, and suggest some ways for us to engage with the school. I started doing some volunteering with the classroom (field trips, library, etc.). Each time I volunteered I got more out of it than I gave, and I could tell it was helping my daughter settle in. So then I dabbled with some school-wide volunteering opportunities (bagel day, harvest carnival, etc.). I had a blast getting to know many new families, and building new (and lasting) friendships.  
A year ago, I got a surprise phone call. Apparently the PTA nominating committee had put my name forward as a potential candidate for PTA Co-President. After I realized it wasn’t a crank call, I said thanks, but no thanks. I had never been on the PTA. I honestly didn’t even know many specifics about what the PTA does.  They were convincing, and they told me new perspectives, ideas and energy were highly valued.
Now I look back on the last year and I’m so glad I joined the PTA board. I’ve had a lot of fun and it’s been incredibly rewarding. I’ve developed bonds with many great people, and I’ve learned so much about our wonderful Duveneck community, the school, and even the school district. The PTA is an amazing organization, and I firmly believe it plays a very important role at Duveneck.
Now I find myself on the PTA nominating committee, so don’t be surprised when you get a phone call!
Jason Oliger
(Grade 4)

Two years ago, I was asked to join the PTA Board to head up Parent and Student Programs. I had no idea what this meant, so I said “No thanks”.  I was fairly involved in my own children’s classrooms, and I hadn’t paid much attention to anything else.  But that ask got me thinking and asking questions to learn more.  I realized that my children were getting older and more self-reliant.  It dawned on me that it was my turn to keep up the excellence at our school.

So, I changed my mind and joined.  I was really nervous and excited!  I wanted to learn about the position so I attended my first Math Circle! my first Parent Ed night! Save the Bay! 3rd Grade Bike Rodeo!  My eyes were opened to all of the wonderful programs our PTA organizes to enrich the school experience for our children.  I also got to meet all of the parent volunteers who ran the programs and the parents who attend them.  I realized I was part of something bigger than my family’s little world, and it was personally refreshing and rewarding.  I felt very fortunate to be part of such a strong network of adults who were dedicated to our children’s education.

However, at the end of that year, I noticed that that strong network of adults seemed to be the same small group of parents.  I also saw many parents who wanted to help, but weren’t sure of what to do or what was expected of them, so they were reluctant to volunteer.  I realized that we have a huge percentage of families who didn’t grow up in America. They come from countries where parents are not asked to be involved or to participate in their children’s education.  The whole concept of a teacher-parent partnership was alien to them… the “PTA” was an enigma.

This was a huge opportunity to educate parents and teachers about all of the good the PTA does for our school.  We would have to offer as many opportunities as possible – varied by size, day of the week, time of the day, audience, topic, etc.  Parents and teachers would be encouraged to attend and invited to organize and run activities.  Once people knew how they could support their children, their teachers – they would really enjoy being part of this fantastic community.

The 2017-2018 PTA Board, and our programs and events are built on this premise.  We seek to bring in new ideas, new energy to build upon the rich traditions that we have at Duveneck.  There are so many opportunities to get involved, to participate in the education of our children, and in the enrichment of our community.  We want to involve as many parents and teachers as possible.  We know that once you get involved, once you’re working with other parents and teachers to better our children’s education and experience here at Duveneck, you’ll love it!

To learn more about the PTA and our efforts, please explore our website: https://duveneck.paloaltopta.org/.

Thank you!

Valerie Rainey
(Grade 3 and 4)

I left work a few months before my daughter started kindergarten.  As a result, my huge to-do list shrunk and my stress went way down… great!  But I missed the social connection of working with other adults.  I looked forward to getting involved in helping at the school, but when school started it felt like everyone else knew what was going on, and I didn’t fit in.  Asking around, I learned that many of my peers (parents of first-time kindergartners) were equally lost.

So I volunteered for a few class trips.  And then I was asked to help the PTA with communications.  I jumped at the chance.  Perhaps if I could learn what the PTA did, I could actually explain it to other parents?

So I rebuilt the PTA web site.  And I built a reputation as “the guy who knows computers”, which meant I got to automate expense reporting (yay less paperwork!) and tried to create a shorter, simpler weekly eNews (yay easier reading!).  I was hoping that if I made it easy to learn what was happening at school, more people would join in.

I’ve found that the PTA volunteers are quite enthusiastic (of course they are — otherwise they wouldn’t volunteer!), and this makes them quite fun to work with.  Every volunteer I’ve talked with has their own personal list of “wouldn’t it be nice if someone (not me) worked on X”.  I’ve found that the number of things the PTA does is entirely limited by the number of volunteers they have.  So if you have some project you’d love to do, we’d love to have you!

– Chris Colohan
(Grade 1)

I remember being that parent who did not know much, especially about volunteering, when my daughter started kindergarten.  This was 10 years ago.  I didn’t volunteer much in class as I had a 3 year old at that time.  One day in 1st grade, my daughter asked me, “Mom, why do you not volunteer?”  I responded that between work and a younger one, I really did not have much time.  She was so sad that she was one of the few kids whose parent was not really there at school.  It made me re-evaluate volunteering.  I started by driving on field trips and volunteering to do class parties.

One day my friend asked me to co-chair the Harvest Carnival.  I was so overwhelmed at the very thought of it.  But the previous co-chairs and the rest of the parent volunteers were so wonderful that despite it being a big event, it was FUN event to volunteer for.  My daughter and her friends were thrilled… they helped decorate, run errands.  It made my day to see so many happy faces.

I came to know many parents as I volunteered over the years.  Some have become close friends.  I have come to know some wonderful, caring people, folks willing to do their best and utmost by our students.  It’s always heartwarming to see fellow parents on the street walking, at Trader Joe’s, Peets, around town. One day at Trader Joe’s, a parent and I looked at each other and were trying to remember where we had met.  It was when we were volunteering for science fair at Jordan and now our kids at Paly… it was lovely just to catch up after a few years of not running into each other.

I still volunteer at all my kids schools.  I have come to know their friends, meet even more families and have seen my world expand.  It’s so nice to catch up with my Duveneck friends at a Paly concert or football game.

This is my third time at Duveneck and I am glad to be a part of the friendly Duveneck PTA.  Elementary school is a magical time in a child’s life.  The experiences can really shape a child’s personality, interest and open the world of exploration for them.  However, all this happens when we all pitch in to design, build and provide them with different experiences.  It truly takes a village to raise a child. Your child will appreciate any little bit that you can do… it takes very little to put a smile on their face. So come on over and join volunteering at Duveneck.  You will make friends that will last you a lifetime.

– Oindrilla Ray
(Grade 1 and Duveneck Alumni)

I became involved in Working Wonders because I believe it’s important for my kids to participate in activities that don’t always revolve around them. The food, book and toy drives put on by WOW give parents an opportunity to talk to their kids about less fortunate people in our community. And they give kids an easy way to contribute!

It’s always worth my time to organize these events when I experience the over-the-top appreciation we get from our charities. I’m always impressed with how our students step up to sort and stock food at the Food Closet during our food drive. I had to drag my son in tears to his first visit to the Food Closet, but now it’s one of his favorite activities at Duveneck! If you’re intimidated about volunteering at Duveneck – don’t be! You’ll be welcomed with open arms while setting a great example for your kids and getting to know this wonderful community of parents.

– Jenny Dixon
(Grades 1, 3 and 5)

I joined Dragon Care when my son entered kindergarten almost three years ago. At that time, we were deciding on elementary schools, and I was introduced to a Duveneck mom who patiently chatted with me at Starbucks for over an hour even though we barely knew each other back then. This was the first of my many more wonderful experiences with the Duveneck community.

Signing up for Dragon Care is just a small way for me to give back, to help others during those difficult or busy times. I know many parents want to help beyond the classrooms but may not necessarily have the time to do so on a regular basis. If that’s the case, Dragon Care may be the perfect opportunity. You’ll be amazed at how a small gesture can help make someone’s day. It doesn’t matter if they are homemade or takeout dishes, and it’s not just about meal delivery-we are letting a family in need know that they are not alone. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a great feeling. Come join us!

– Jackie Wong
(Kinder and Grade 2)

We are parents and teachers who support Duveneck Elementary School in Palo Alto, CA. As a community, we help create the school we want our children to have by providing funding for school equipment and materials, hosting community events, and providing enrichment programs for parents, teachers and students.