Faithful recycler, expert laminator, dedicated teacher supporter

Parent volunteer helps however and wherever she can

‘If we want our children to have the best education possible, we have to find resources, like parent volunteers, to fill the gaps,’ parent volunteer Angie Kennedy says

Powered by Parents is a series highlighting the parents, grandparents and other family members who give their time in schools to help students and teachers do their best.

Angie Kennedy breezed into the main office at Alto Elementary and made a beeline for “the rocket fuel,” as she called it. “I tend to drink it around the clock, and I make the strongest coffee.”

Parent volunteer Angie Kennedy works some laminator magic at Alto Elementary

With that, Kennedy was off to the teacher’s lounge, home of the laminator. Kennedy calls herself the school’s resident expert on that beastly piece of heat-meets-plastic technology. “I also think it might be because I could be the only one who knows how to change (the roll) out,” she said with a laugh.

The next stops are the building’s recycling containers, where Kennedy, a self-described “bin diver,” sorted through paper, plastic and the errant pop can to make sure every item winds up in the proper place.

“See, like this. This doesn’t go in here,” she said as she held up an empty pop can and walked it over to the returnables bin. “This is 10 cents for our PTO right here.”

The 1997 Lowell High School graduate has volunteered since her oldest son, Abram, was in preschool. These days, while the fourth-grader is in his classroom, mom is just a hallway or two away up to four days a week, sometimes with 4-year-old son Alton in tow.

‘If they ask me to do something, I am going to do it all the way and then some.’ — Angie Kennedy, parent volunteer

Besides working to set up a recycling program — as well as a hoped-for increased emphasis on the “reduce” and “reuse” parts of the effort — and running the laminator, Kennedy has served as a cookie baker, student picture day class go-getter, foam tray counter and rinser, party planner, reading helper and room parent.

Parent volunteer Angie Kennedy has high hopes for the recycling efforts at Alto Elementary

“I’m not a member of the PTO. Fundraising is not my strong suit,” she said. “But the kitchen is my comfort zone. And I care about the environment. I just try to work all the avenues I can. Most folks who know me know that if they ask me to do something, I am going to do it all the way and then some.”

Kennedy said she understands that as a homemaker she has a unique opportunity to help out at her children’s schools, and insists that “any little bit helps,” even an hour a month with a project that can be taken home, or donating room supplies.

Kennedy sees the parent volunteer role as one that goes far deeper than cutting, sorting, organizing and monitoring. In the long run, she said, what she and other parent volunteers contribute to is maintaining teacher enthusiasm for a career in education.

“We all know that schools and classrooms don’t have near enough resources, but the resource of parent help can alleviate a good deal of that burden,” Kennedy said. “Teachers do so much with so little, and for so little. If we want our children to have the best education possible, we have to find resources, like parent volunteers, to fill the gaps.”

And how does volunteering at her children’s school make Kennedy feel?

“I might feel tired some days,” she said, “but I feel satisfied, I feel fulfilled, I feel like I am contributing. And I get so much appreciation for it that I know how much it matters.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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