Throughout the year, we’ll be introducing some of the great teachers, administrators, staff members, students and volunteers in our district. Today, let’s get to know … JEN LOKAI, Volunteer!
Tell us about your volunteer position(s) with Centerville City Schools.
I'm the Academic Volunteer Coordinator at Centerville High School. This is my ninth or 10th year as an AVP Coordinator for Centerville City Schools (started at Weller, moved on to Magsig, now CHS). As an AVP Coordinator, I serve as a link between our teachers and students and parent and community volunteers. This year, I'm excited by a new partnership with the National Honor Society, offering lunchtime Drop-in Tutoring at the high school. Students are busier every year with rigorous coursework, sports and other extracurricular activities, jobs and community service. Often, they’re not able to stay after school or come before school for academic help. Drop-in Tutoring gives them an additional opportunity to obtain homework/general study assistance. I’m also excited by our increased involvement with the ESL program at CHS and look forward to seeing that relationship grow. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented and compassionate educators, parent and community volunteers and NHS students. I admire the work that our Centerville Schools staff carries out on a daily basis and am inspired by the dedication of so many of the volunteers that work one-on-one with our students to help them achieve personal success.
I’ve also served as Parent Booster Board President of Lady Elks Lacrosse for the past three years. This year-round “job” has provided opportunities in communications, recruiting, fundraising, team building and so much more. Luckily, our entire family is heavily involved (both girls play, husband is assistant coach), so it really provides some intense family bonding.
Our family is excited to be hosting our third Spanish exchange student, through CHS and Spanish teacher Lisa Ernest’s hard work. This year the students are from Ecuador and they arrive next week! Our entire family has enjoyed being a part of these cultural exchanges and getting to know students from Argentina and Costa Rica, as well as other Centerville families we may not have otherwise met.
I try to help, when I can, with other volunteer needs at school: selling activity passes, dance tickets, scheduling conferences, showing prospective families around the high school, whatever pops up!
This is my second year on the Centerville Education Foundation board. I’m currently serving as recording secretary. I don’t really bring any particular skills to the table – just a worker bee – but I’m happy to be a part of recognizing outstanding students, teachers and volunteers that are what make Centerville City Schools so special. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to review this year’s teacher grant proposals to see the many creative learning experiences that will be provided to our children, in the coming months, across all grade levels. Most importantly, I’ve been charged with securing the delicious, monster-sized cupcakes for our annual Hall of Fame Banquet, lovingly created by Centerville Schools bus driver Sue Tickel!
How long have you been volunteering here?
This is my lucky 13th year volunteering in Centerville City Schools. I started getting involved (IMC and classroom helper, school festivals, etc.) when my oldest daughter, Abby, was at Centerville Kindergarten Village. When Julia was at PVS (the first year it opened), I enjoyed working in the Wee Elks Cafe, IMC, classroom and chairing the Spring Festival. I believe Abby was in second or third grade at Weller when I began assisting as an Academic Volunteer Coordinator there. At Weller, a couple of my favorite volunteer roles included coordinating the disability awareness program, “Everybody Counts,” creating the fourth grade vermiculture program and utilizing the fabulous land lab facility.
What made you decide to become a volunteer in our schools?
Following grad school, I had the most fantastic job as an environmental educator, working at Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm for eight years. With the birth of our first daughter, my priorities shifted and I went to part time at Aullwood. When Julia was born, I became a full-time stay-at-home mom. As my girls grew and entered school, I knew I wanted to be a part of this new adventure.
I have tremendous respect for the challenging day to day work of teachers and wanted to help in any way possible. Over the years, I’ve come to grow concerned with the amount of stress weighing on our children (emphasis on class rank, test scores, AP classes, need to hold a job, be well-rounded, engage in community service). It is more important than ever that they know there is a support system of caring staff/volunteers here to help them through. The Academic Volunteer Program is part of that message delivery system.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
Although I would consider myself an introvert, I’ve always enjoyed performing (especially musical theater). Growing up, I wanted to be a Broadway star (or compete on Solid Gold). Although I went on to study Biology/Zoology in college/grad school, I am thankful to those mentors who encouraged me to keep music in my life – it makes me very happy … and occasionally embarrasses my family, which also makes me happy.
What is your favorite book, movie, TV show or hobby?
My favorite genre is historical fiction, especially obsessed with Tudor England. (I love anything written by Philippa Gregory.) Another book I enjoyed recently is “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. (Chapter 8: “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy.”) Two of my favorite movies are “Pay it Forward” and “The Blind Side.” Favorite TV shows include “Downton Abbey,” “Reign,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Office,” “Parks and Rec,” and “The Middle.” Things I enjoy doing in my free time are singing, dancing (Zumba fan), playing guitar, hiking and bird watching. I hope to try some of them again, someday soon!
What job or volunteering do you do outside of Centerville Schools?
This is my 12th year teaching first grade PREP (religion class) at Incarnation Church. I love the wonder, boundless energy and innocence of this age, and you never know what they’re going to do and say next!
What would you tell others who are thinking about volunteering for Centerville Schools?
Go for it! Volunteering in our schools give you the opportunity to see the MANY great things happening firsthand. You really do receive more in return than you give.