Notebooks, yellow buses, and sharpened pencils. Those are the telltale signs that thousands of local children are back in school across Charlottesville and Albemarle — and they will have extra help from University of Virginia students thanks to Madison House.
This school year, Madison House, an organization that serves as the volunteer center for U.Va. students, has placed 182 U.Va. students in 15 local elementary schools through its Cavs in the Classroom program. Cavs in the Classroom volunteers assist preschool through sixth grade students with reading, math, spelling lessons, SOL prep, and art projects.
Summerlyn Thompson, Assistant Principal at Johnson Elementary School, says "We are so excited to welcome back our Cavs in the Classroom volunteers this semester. Our students absolutely love the opportunity to work with them, our teachers enjoy having enthusiastic volunteers assisting with our children, and, as a former Cav in the Classroom myself, I daresay that the volunteers get just as much out of it as anyone!”
Cavs in the Classroom has volunteers serving in the classrooms of 115 local teachers, but the numbers tell only part of the story.
Allie Rhea, a fourth year at the University who is the Head Program Director for Cavs in the Classroom, says, "I would not say the success of our program can adequately be measured by the number of children who can do long division or read a chapter book because of Cavs in the Classroom volunteers. Rather, the true power of the program stems from volunteers who create relationships with younger students and act as role models.”
Cavs in the Classroom volunteers learn as much from their service as the local children they are helping.
"I chose to get involved with Cavs in the Classroom because I knew that I wanted to study secondary education but still enjoyed working with the energetic elementary kids," says Sean McClure, a fourth year in both the U.Va. College of Arts and Science and the Curry School of Education. "After being with the program for just over three years now, what I have enjoyed most is forming a relationship with a teacher year after year. This is my fifth semester working with the same teacher and each semester is better."
Meanwhile, the popularity of the Cavs in the Classroom program among U.Va. students continues to grow. Rhea explains, "I have been a part of Cavs in the Classroom since my first weeks at U.Va. This program is consistently one of the biggest at Madison House and I think that speaks to the simplicity, as well as the significance, of our mission."
Rhea also remarked that the Cavs in the Classroom saw a spike in the number of new teachers requesting volunteers this year, thanks to an new online application process. "We are excited to expand our teacher network so we can reach as many students as possible," says Rhea.
Local news station WVIR NBC-29 shot a video segment about Madison House's Cavs in the Classroom program at a local elementary school recently, too. They interviewed Kajal Patel, a fourth year at the University and a Program Director for Cavs in the Classroom. "It's a great break. I feel like I'm a kid again when I'm here with [the kids]," she said. To watch the full video, click HERE.
The Cavalier Daily also wrote an article about Cavs in the Classroom. You can read it HERE.