Tuesday, March 20 , 2018, 1:44 pm | A Few Clouds 61º


Classroom Experience Clicks with Partners in Education Volunteer Joseph Barker

UCSB grad says opportunity to help at La Patera School has helped prepare him to achieve his Peace Corps dream

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by Earl Warren Showgrounds, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]

Joseph Barker had high hopes for his involvement with Santa Barbara Partners in Education after learning about its Volunteer Program.

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

“The biggest factor that led to my volunteering is my desire and goal to join the Peace Corps,” said Barker, a Napa native. “This is something I’ve dreamed of for years, and I felt that in order to be a strong candidate I needed more hands-on volunteering experience.

“In addition, I just love kids and always have, so the chance to be a positive influence and role model for them really appealed to me.”

After linking up with Partners in Education, Barker, in all-star volunteer fashion, proceeded to put a truly admirable amount of time and energy into his volunteering while completing his senior year at UC Santa Barbara.

Joseph Barker
Joseph Barker

Over the course of nine months, Barker spent one hour a day, three days a week, tutoring MaryAnn Wright’s second-graders at La Patera School in the Goleta Union School District. By the end of the school year, he had accrued 80 hours of service.

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, focuses on connecting capable individuals like Barker with opportunities to alleviate school needs.

With their roots in the County Education Office, Partners in Education programs are granted a unique level of access into the public school system, allowing Partners in Education volunteers the opportunity to interact with students through tutoring and other meaningful activities, making a significant and regular impact on their lives.

While helping with reading and math homework is a critical component in creating that impact, the majority of volunteers agree that some of the most meaningful experiences while volunteering occur during the most random of moments.

Like when hitting a piñata, for example.

“It was Halloween and I brought in a piñata, thinking the kids would like it,” Barker said.

“So I showed MaryAnn, and got her approval first. I had already put the candy in it, so when I came in to volunteer I strung it up on a tree right outside the classroom. The kids were so excited when they saw it. They all got in a row to take turns swinging at it.

“Seeing how much fun they had, as a result of something I had done, totally made my day and made me feel really good. For weeks after, they would get excited just remembering it and would say, ‘Were you the one who brought in the piñata?’”

After months of getting to know the students, Barker was met with another unforgettable response on another holiday.

“I had forgotten how much fun it is to be that age on Valentine’s Day,” he laughed at the memory.

“I had gotten some simple cards for the kids because I knew that they were going to be passing them out when I was there. When I arrived to class that day they were passing out their cards to each other one at a time, and then gluing them down into a personal little booklet that MaryAnn had helped them make.

“I exclaimed, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day!’ and was incredibly moved by what happened next. At least half the class got up and ran to me, and before I knew it, I was being hugged by a mass of children who were too excited to contain themselves. A few of the kids even made valentines for me, which I have held onto in a scrapbook so I can always remember them and that day.”

Barker says volunteering with Partners in Education over the past year — other than being just plain fun — has given him a broader perspective on the world of education.

“I have learned about a multitude of things, ranging from developmental psychology to learning disabilities to special tools required by certain students, and the channels through which they must travel to obtain them,” he said.

“Also, I am more aware of the bureaucracy involved in the education system — how standardized tests can be a double-edged sword, and how politics can get mixed up in the education of our youth.”

For all this and more, Barker said, he is grateful for his experience with La Patera School students, MaryAnn Wright and Partners in Education, including Elise Zolczynski, the AmeriCorps volunteer manager whose coordinating role at Partners in Education made the experience possible.

“Volunteering has been a very positive force in my life,” Barker reflected.

“I really enjoy being a good role model and a constructive influence for these children in our community, who are at a critical point in their lives, and who rarely get all the resources they deserve.

“I loved being able to make them understand something that’s difficult. That moment when it clicks is great to be a part of. I always left the classroom each day with a good feeling and a positive outlook on life.”

Barker recently graduated from UCSB with degrees in communication and Spanish. He is still on the path to making his Peace Corps dream come true.

                                                                  •        •        •

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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