Enrichment Brigade looks to benefit whole community

GRAND BLANC — Susan Hendricks has two children in graduate school so she understands people who believe after graduation their commitment to local schools is over.

She understands, but she doesn’t believe it.

“Everybody benefits,” she said, speaking of the community as a whole. She explained that if a business is productive, then it helps make a vibrant community, and if there is a vibrant community, then people want to raise families there, and if families are there they will make the community vibrant.

Part of that vibrancy though is the giving back of oneself to the community, specifically to the schools.

So Hendricks, a long-time resident, business owner and school volunteer, developed a way for educated and skilled people to share those skills — on a short-term basis with no commitment — with a demographic desperately in need of them — the local schools.

“Grand Blanc is a diverse and talented community,” said Hendricks. She has developed a way to connect those talents with teachers, who are faced with ever-shrinking budgets and needs for resources to enrich the education local children get.

It is called the Enrichment Brigade, and is a database teachers can search to find individuals with talents teachers can use.

Hendricks said the beauty of having a database full of people who can give is it doesn’t tie down one or two individuals to a long-term commitment, but instead gives teachers a multitude of people who they can choose from to give one or two hours of time whenever they are available.

This avoids what is known as Pareto’s Principle, where 20 percent of the people tend to do 80 percent of the work. Hendrick’s also explained if teachers don’t know where resources are, they won’t ask for them, and on the other hand if people aren’t asked to help, they don’t.

One of the greatest benefits to the students however is they get to speak to someone in a specialised area that has actually applied the principles the kids are learning to their daily life — a complaint which often surfaces about education, because teaching a principle is not the same as using one.

So not only does the small term commitment make it easy, but each volunteers skills specifically address a teacher/students needs. Previously each school maintained its own list but a database everyone can access is a lot more efficient.

Hendricks also implied the system is not only applicable to the schools, but to youth, business and other community groups who need access to professionals with specific skills and information. She said people shouldn’t assume their skills aren’t needed. For example a hairdresser can explain about the chemistry of hair coloring and what types of tools or protective equipment is used.

Making lessons relevant to real life is an important aspect of enriching education per Hendricks.

“The kids need to get an idea of what a job entails,” she said. She hopes people who have time to spare and a lifetime of skills and experience, such as retirees, will consider volunteering.

Volunteers can even indicate if they are available only by email for specific questions, like a consultant, as well. “I hope people will do a lot of re-thinking,” Hendricks said, regarding what people typically think of volunteers. “Hopefully we can do more.”

Volunteers can sign up by going to the website: grandblanc.schoolfusion.us/m odules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=27 1997, and scrolling down to review the information provided. Because children are involved, a free background check will be performed by the school. — P.B.

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