DANVILLE — Danville High School officials are looking for volunteers to encourage students in their academic endeavors during the first "Making the Grade" conference of the 2013-14 school year.
The conference will be held at the high school on Oct. 1.
About 100 volunteers are needed to meet individually with ninth- and eleventh-grade students for about 5 to 10 minutes to review their progress at school.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for members of the community to reach out to young people and inspire them to pursue academic excellence," Associate Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said.
"It's also an opportunity to get students to reflect on their progress, whether good or bad. We really want them to start thinking about life after high school and how their success is so closely correlated with their performance in school."
The initiative is part of the district's plan to strengthen community engagement, one of "the five essentials" of a strong school. The other essentials are effective leadership, ambitious instruction, collaborative teachers and a supportive environment.
"All of the research shows that when schools focus on these five things and do them well, they see an increase in student learning," Desmoulin-Kherat said.
Volunteers can come from any walk of life. They don't need any special qualifications other than being friendly and caring about students and their education.
Training sessions for volunteers will be held from 8 to 8:25 a.m. and 10:10 to 10:40 a.m. They are recommended but not required, and those who are unable to attend will receive instructions upon their arrival.
Following the training, volunteers will meet with students during two sessions. The first is from 8:30 to 10:05 a.m., and the second is from 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"They can volunteer for one session, or they can come for the entire day," Desmoulin-Kherat said.
During meetings, volunteers will review students' first academic-quarter progress report with them.
"Students are really honest. They'll say, they got an 'A' in this or a 'D' or 'F' in that," Desmoulin-Kherat said, adding they can talk about what the student can do to improve or stay on track.
If students are struggling, volunteers can provide students with information on tutoring and other help. They also can find out whether freshmen are making a smooth transition to high school, how juniors feel about taking their high-stakes state test in the spring or whether students feel other things, such as a noisy classroom, are affecting their performance, and pass those concerns along to school officials.
Desmoulin-Kherat helped put on similar conferences at Manuel High School in Peoria and Lanphier High School in Springfield, both of which won School Improvement Grants to significantly improve academic achievement. Danville High is launching the grant program this year.
"The kids were surveyed, and they were pleased that individuals were interested in them and in their future," Desmoulin-Kherat said, adding volunteers provide a neutral voice. "They congratulate them, encourage them. I think we all thrive when we get encouragement. It motivates us to do better."
Danville High officials plan to follow up with a second "Making the Grade" conference on April 11. If both are successful, they plan to expand it to other students the next year.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Melinda Bailey, the associate superintendent's secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 444-1012.