Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 8:12 am | Partly Cloudy 59º

Archaeologist Amy Gusick Helps Students Discover a Love for Science, and Their Future

Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteer emphasizes the world of opportunity that education opens up

By Chelsea Duffy for the Santa Barbara County Education Office |

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by Frank Schipper Construction Co., a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]

Amy Gusick recently completed a doctorate in anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, through which Santa Barbara Partners in Education has been able to recruit hundreds of volunteers eager to make an impact on the lives of young people. While studying in Santa Barbara, Gusick, too, was driven by the idea of sharing her passion for her profession as a volunteer.

“As an archaeologist, I am very aware that my job is something that resonates well with many people, especially kids,” said the Thousand Oaks native.

      |  Partners in Education President’s Council Series |  Complete Series Index  |

“With Partners, I saw the opportunity to share what I do with young people as a way to motivate them to continue in education and follow their own dreams.”

Partners in Education is a nonprofit organization administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office that provides support to schools countywide through its three programs, one of which, the Volunteer Program, connects individuals like Gusick with opportunities to utilize their own interests and personal expertise to meet school or nonprofit needs.

Through the Volunteer Program, teachers make online requests for a variety of volunteer support in their classrooms, such as guest speakers, tutors and mentors.

When Gusick came along in 2008, it just so happened that several teachers were in need of assistance in their science and social science classes. Those requests have continued to come in.

Over the course of six years, Gusick found that she was continually and happily challenged by the opportunities that came before her.

“I like the variety of opportunities that Partners offers,” she said.

“Many volunteer activities focus on specific types of functions that don’t require much creativity," she continued. "With Partners, I have presented to 300 students at once in an auditorium setting for Science Day, I have given smaller talks in classroom settings to both traditional and special education classes, and I have even helped out on a weekly basis in math classes where I worked one-on-one with students.”

The breadth of Gusick’s ongoing participation as a volunteer isn’t the only thing that distinguishes her involvement.

It’s the quality of her involvement.

“Dr. Gusick easily gave one of the best presentations out of any classroom guest speaker I ever seen,” said Ashley Cortez, the former AmeriCorps member and Partners Volunteer manager who coordinated Gusick’s activities during the 2012-2013 school year.

“She put together an incredibly engaging presentation that was relatable and age-appropriate. She even brought with her some great artifacts from UCSB that the kids could actually hold in their hands.”

After hearing this story from Gusick, it’s clear her student audience agrees with this assessment:

“Many of my talks were right before a lunch or recess," she said. "Every time I have given a presentation, numerous students stay to ask additional questions about the artifacts I showed them or about some additional aspect of my career. Knowing how much students appreciate their recess time, I feel very good that they choose to stay behind to learn more about what I do instead of going to recess!”

Gusick attributes the love she has for anthropology and archaeology to traveling, something she has done a lot of since she was a child. She likes to think of her presentations as a way of bringing the discoveries she has made in her travels and work to the classroom, to students still waiting for the light bulb to turn on, letting them know what careers to pursue.

“I believe it’s important to let young people know that education is a way to pursue nontraditional jobs (like mine), particularly for those students who may struggle with a more rigid educational structure,” she explained.

No longer living in Santa Barbara, Gusick reflects on the more than half of a decade she has spent as a Partners in Education volunteer, considering what it has done for her life.

“Volunteering has enriched my life both professionally and personally," she said. "On a professional level, it reminds me why I do what I do. I love being an archaeologist and I love to share my passion about it with others. This motivates me to be the best that I can be at my chosen profession.

“Personally, volunteering provides me with a great sense of satisfaction that I can give back to the educational system that was so instrumental in shaping who I am today. The thought that I may be able to help influence youths to stay in school and be excited about the doors that will open for them as a result of their education is something that makes me very happy.”

Gusick now lives in San Diego and works as the director of cultural resources at a contracting firm, HDR Inc. Her service to Santa Barbara schools and students will not be forgotten.

                                                                  •        •        •

Santa Barbara Partners in Education is a nonprofit 501(c)3 administered by the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The Partners in Education President’s Council consists of 30 businesses that all act as an advocate for Partners in Education programs and a liaison between public schools and the business community. Each President’s Council member contributes $2,500 annually.

Partners programs include a Volunteer Recruitment program serving K-12 public schools and nonprofit organizations; a Paid Job Readiness Training & Internship program for deserving high school students; and Computers for Families, a program working to close the digital divide.

» Click here to volunteer with Partners in Education, or call 805.964.4710 x4401.

» Connect with Partners in Education on Facebook. Follow Partners in Education on Twitter: @sbpartnersined.

» For other inquiries, contact internship program and communications coordinator Chelsea Duffy at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

      |  Partners in Education President’s Council Series |  Complete Series Index  |

— Chelsea Duffy is a program coordinator for Santa Barbara Partners in Education.

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