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Can she convince you to take a pie in the face?

Powered by Parents: Emily Carpenter

Northview — What began as “classroom helper and field trip chaperone” has become a near full-time passion for Emily Carpenter to be involved in her community via her children’s schools.

Raised in Allendale, Carpenter started to volunteer in her son’s developmental kindergarten class at West Oakview as soon as she and her husband, Bill, moved into the district. Her son now is in fourth grade and her daughter is in first grade.

In addition to a full-time job as an accounts manager and customer maintenance coordinator for a fire safety and security company, she is president of the school’s parent teacher committee, plans and heads fundraisers for field trips and other student and teacher needs, leads monthly popcorn sales, helps make sure staff are fed during parent-teacher conferences and runs little league concessions while her husband coaches.

Principal Tony Quinn said Carpenter is “the first to volunteer anytime we need anything at West. … She just handled all the behind-the-scenes work at our walkathon in October, organized the raffle afterward, had 15 staffers getting pies in the face and asked staff members to volunteer.”

Of school volunteers in general, Quinn said, “Some years, we don’t have enough people to help; other years, you just have people who take care of it all.” 

And it was Quinn who first encouraged Carpenter to take on her newest challenge, which she accepted; she was elected last year to a six-year term on the district’s Board of Education.

“She’s a very educated, very genuine person,” he said. “Anytime you are looking at (open) school board seats, you want somebody who has a vested interest. Northview is a fantastic community that is built on relationships, and Emily is the first to want to enhance those relationships. She’s always trying to think about what’s best for all, she doesn’t have an agenda, (and) she wants all kids to have the best opportunities for the best education they can. 

“Someone like that can only benefit a school district.”

Something New Every Month

Carpenter admitted she was unsure at first whether she could take on the demands of a school board position in addition to her already fairly long list of school duties. But she hasn’t looked back.

In addition to being a school volunteer, Emily Carpenter, third from left, was elected to a six-year term on the district’s Board of Education. Member Doug LaFleur is absent (courtesy)

“Every month there’s something different, and things I didn’t realize the school board actually does and doesn’t do,” she said, noting that the time board members devote to learning about and understanding how a school district functions is “a lot; it really is a lot. It’s all learning.”

Carpenter recognizes that not all school volunteers have the time or energy to be involved in as much as she has been, but she insists that any amount of time adults can volunteer is both needed and very much welcomed. She hopes her enthusiasm is at least partially responsible for expanding the school’s volunteer base.

“Whether that’s figuring out what fundraisers we’re going to do, calling businesses to sponsor, planning prizes, approving grant requests, taking things home and helping out that way, helping with popcorn days; it’s a lot and we make do, but any help is appreciated.”

Of her involvement with Northview overall, Carpenter said, “I am so happy. I have learned so much. This is what I wanted when I had kids, to always be there, to be present not only for my children but for the community.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She 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

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