Giving back is an important part of our mission here at Forsyth Tech. But for many employees, that can be hard to do, as volunteer time is spent after work hours or on the weekends. That’s why college leaders implemented a new community service program this year, giving employees another option to pitch in while on the clock. It allows them to take eight hours of paid time off annually to volunteer in their communities.
A special summer camp experience
Jason Jurkowich used his volunteer time at Camp Discovery, a summer program for children with special needs that’s sponsored by Winston-Salem’s Parks and Rec Department. Jason, who is an equipment clerk at the college, has a son who is autistic. After seeing what a great experience his son had last summer at the camp, he knew he wanted to get involved.
“I guided the campers in making a leather wrist band,” Jason explains. “Each camper got to choose their stamps, help where they could, and be able to leave with a completed craft.”
He says the most rewarding moment was seeing the campers wearing their bracelets and showing them off! He’s grateful to the college for the time he was able to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Knowing that I can leave work for a few hours and go help my community is really satisfying,” Jason says. “I encourage all of my coworkers to take advantage of this through a volunteer opportunity that means something to them.”
A computer connection for families in need
For many underprivileged students, access to a working computer in their home is a luxury and out of reach. Chris Pearce, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Forsyth Tech, used his computer skills and tech-savvy background to help bridge that digital gap. He, along with a couple of other college employees, teamed up with the Kramden Institute and WinstonNet to give 200 computers to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools students whose families likely otherwise would not have been able to afford one.
“People and corporations donate their used computers to The Kramden Insititute, which then refurbishes them,” Chris explains. “We were able to help train students and their parents on how to properly use the computers, so they’d be ready to go when they got home.”
The computers are loaded with several educational programs and software that will not only allow students to succeed in school, but benefit their parents and siblings as well.
“It was an amazing feeling seeing the excitement on both the parents’ and students’ faces when they walked in and realized they were finally getting their very own computer,” Chris says. “We take a lot of things for granted. The volunteer program is an awesome opportunity the college has given us to give back to the community, and it’s important we utilize that time.”
Boosting student success
By day, Melissa Smith is the program coordinator of Forsyth Tech’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) program. But when she’s off the clock, she likes to volunteer at her son’s school. This year, she served as president of Meadowview Magnet Middle School’s Booster Association.
“The Boosters support the academic and athletic needs of the school,” Melissa explains. “They help a lot of less fortunate kids that probably wouldn’t be able to afford extra things in school. When a teacher comes to us with a need, we use money from fundraising to help meet it.”
Melissa used her community service hours to help plan, coordinate, and implement a successful Port A Pit chicken sale. The Boosters sold 745 plates and raised more than $3,000 for the school!
“This is our largest fundraiser all year, so we have to start planning a year in advance,” Melissa says. “The use of community service hours allowed me to take time off from work without worrying about using vacation time and helped make this fundraiser a success. It is one of the best benefits we have at Forsyth Tech, and I encourage my fellow employees to find some way to help in the community. There are so many needs out there.”