Season's Givings: Public Schools Not Only Need Teachers, But Volunteers

As part of our month-long "Season's Givings" series, KPCC's Kitty Felde profiles a businesswoman who pitches in at her local public school.

Kitty Felde: With Season's Givings, I'm Kitty Felde. It's after school at Laurel Elementary in Brea. Sixth grader Payton Ramirez is working on her fractions at the Homework Club. She's got some help from volunteer Diane Stites.

Diane Stites: I'm one of five kids. My father didn't graduate from high school. My mom worked all the time. They didn't have time to help me with my homework. So then I look at some of these kids and it's great to be able to come in and help somebody with their homework, and we're going over something and then their eyes light up when they get it, and that's fantastic.

Felde: Stites knows something about math. She used to assess international risk for the investment management company Capital Group.

Stites: My former employer, they encouraged people to volunteer at Laurel Elementary School. They actually had adopted the school, and it was like over ten years ago.

Felde: Stites' first foray into volunteering at Laurel Elementary was teaching a Junior Achievement class. She was scared to death.

Stites: I'm serious. I was intimidated. These kids! It's like, I could go into a meeting with all kinds of people, from stock exchanges, central banks. Those didn't bother me. Getting a face in front of a group of fourth graders now, to have to face them. (laughs)

Felde: These days, Stites pitches in wherever she's needed, helping teachers organize their materials, cleaning up a classroom, even serving on the PTA, the only non-parent in the group. Principal Daryn Coburn wishes she could clone Stites.

Daryn Coburn: We're constantly trying to think of ways to recruit more people and get more people involved. But everyone tends to say yeah, I'm so busy, I'm so busy.

Felde: After the homework club, Stites heads over to the auditorium to lend a hand with rehearsals of the school's singing group, the Spotlights.

Stites: If it weren't for my company encouraging the associates to volunteer, I don't know if I would have ever done that. But I am so glad that I did.

[Kids sing "Feliz Navidad"]