There was a famous Syms advertisement that said: “An educated consumer is our best customer.”
That is the premise of a new volunteer program at Carmel Academy, which enables parents to donate their time and expertise to the school without sacrificing too much time away from their busy schedules.
“Recent surveys of Carmel’s parent body show that more than two-thirds of our parents hold advanced degrees, such as masters and doctorates. We have a highly-educated parent body and we are now prepared to tap into this amazing resource,” said Carmel Academy Head of School Nora Anderson.
“We wanted to create a space where parents can come to campus and volunteer to tutor students. Yet, one of our greatest challenges is that parents lead busy lives and can’t necessarily give up an entire day to volunteer during school,” Anderson said.
“With that in mind, we came up with an idea to create a space that serves dual purposes—a quiet, professional workspace and a student-friendly classroom,” she said.
Carmel Academy parents can now come to campus, volunteer and not have to sacrifice an entire day away from the office thanks to a newly renovated building on campus that caters to children and busy professionals. The project was funded by The Evaluation Company as part of the organization’s research into alternative educational models.
The school’s Kindly Cottage, a quaint, historic cottage nestled at the entrance of Carmel Academy’s Upper Campus, was updated and renovated. It is a warm, bright building outfitted with telephones, flat-screen computer monitors, a large television monitor and white board for both parents and students to use.
“Parents don’t need to worry about rushing back to the office. They can come to campus, get in 4 or 5 hours of work, and also spend time tutoring for a few hours,” said Carmel Academy Principal Rebecca Hammerman.
Josh Eisen, whose three children attend Carmel, tutors students each week and uses the cottage as his office space in between tutoring sessions on the days he is on campus.
Parents do not tutor their own children, but work 1-on-1 or 1-on-2, tutoring in subjects they themselves are interested in or excel at.
On a recent afternoon, Eisen, who holds a PhD from Columbia University and runs a successful business, spent time with two seventh graders teaching the Pythagorean Theorem. The students’ teachers provide the curriculum or unit of study, and he provides the small group enrichment tutoring.
“This is really a cutting-edge approach to education,” Eisen said. “Parents can be as creative as they want. They may have expertise in art or music, for example, and bring that to the students.”
Meanwhile, Eisen said he now does not have to choose between professional responsibilities and volunteering, as the cottage is fully equipped with all the high-end technology and tools he needs to get his work done.
While he does not tutor his own children, giving back to the school and being part of his children’s everyday life is rewarding. “I really do believe that being around your children, in their environment, is very powerful,” he said.