Session 2 of FBISD’s Junior Student Leadership Program gives participants a good perspective on volunteerism

Carolyn Tarver (right) and Becky Torres (left) speak to students about Project SMILE and Bethel Ministries.

Leadership in Community Volunteerism was the focus of Session 2 of the FBISD Junior Student Leadership Program. Hosted by FBISD Board Member Grayle James, the session provided students with the opportunity to see “first-hand” the important role community leaders have in providing services to families in our community.

The session began with an overview of the day’s activities by program facilitator, Linda Ruther. Leadership students Danielle Fournier (Kempner High School), Helen Li (Travis High School) and Emmanuel Nnali (Bush High School) then presented background information on each location the group would visit.

The group’s first visit was to CASA House to meet with Ruthanne Mefford, executive director of Child Advocates of Fort Bend; and Metoyer Ellis, program director of CASA House. Mefford and Ellis shared information regarding the services and programs their organizations provide to children who enter the child welfare system and the various roles of volunteers who advocate on behalf of the abused and neglected children. The leadership class also participated in a role play activity to better understand how children are cared for during the process, and viewed a video featuring testimonies from children who have benefitted from services provided by CASA House and Child Advocates of Fort Bend.

Before leading students on a tour of the facility, CASA volunteer Pat Summers spoke of her role and how she serves as a voice for children in court. She also reminded students that “it takes a joint effort of many caring adults to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Following their trip to CASA House, the cohorts visited Bethel Ministries. They had the opportunity to meet with Carolyn Tarver, Founder of Project SMILE; and Becky Torres, Director of Mission Outreach. Tarver spoke of how she began the project following the loss of her son, Stan, and how the program works in conjunction with Bethel Outreach Ministries to provide gifts, food and educational services to thousands of children each year.

“It’s amazing how God can take a tragedy and make it into a blessing for so many,” said Tarver. “Project SMILE has become a beautiful tribute to my son.”

For the first time in the history of the leadership program, students saw community service in action as Torres led volunteers through an assembly line of filling boxes with food and loading them into the cars of families in the community.

“I’m sure that seeing the food being distributed and the long line of cars filled with individuals who benefit from the program helped students realize that there are hungry people in our community,” said Grayle James, FBISD Board Member. “I’m glad that our students had the opportunity to witness helping hands in action, and I appreciate the organizers of these projects for sharing with FBISD students their work in the community.”

The students ended their session in the FBISD Administration Board Room, where they enjoyed lunch, followed by their first Strengths Finder lesson, led by Yolanda Young, Coordinator in FBISD’s Department of Organizational Development. Young provided students with a list of their top five talents based on results of their Strengths Finder assessment and led them through various activities to help them focus on their natural gifts and talents.

Following Young’s lesson, the students welcomed Laura Richards, director of Fort Bend Cares. Richards gave background information about the foundation, saying that it provided $175,000 to 26 nonprofit groups last year, including CASA House, Fort Bend County Women’s Center and the Boys and Girls Club.

To conclude, Board Member Grayle James gave a recap of the day’s events, reminding students that “the world is much bigger than what’s around your neighborhood.”

“This session was very important because the group got to see all of the types of conditions people work under, especially how a lot of nonprofit organizations don’t have all the resources they need,” said Conner Smith of Dulles High School. “As a group, maybe we can help these organizations with the resources they need.”

The next session will focus on Leadership in the Judicial System.

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