New program connects volunteers with opportunities

A new program aimed at connecting Washington University in St. Louis student volunteers with opportunities to support students in kindergarten through 12th grade in St. Louis-area public schools is being launched this semester.

Information sessions for students interested in K-12 Connections will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, and 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, both in room 248 of the Danforth University Center.

The program is a collaboration between the university Community Service Office of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service, the Office of Government and Community Relations and Science Outreach.

“K-12 Connections allows schools to access WUSTL students for special events, like science fairs or literacy nights,” says Victoria L. May, director of Science Outreach and assistant dean in Arts & Sciences.

“There’s a need for this type of project and I think WUSTL is making a commitment to connect in whatever way schools, students and faculty can. There’s definitely interest on both sides,” May says.

K-12 Connections seeks to connect WUSTL students, staff and faculty members with volunteer opportunities in high-needs urban school districts in the St. Louis area.

Student volunteers are trained and “on-call.” As opportunities arise in schools, volunteers will be notified and can sign up for anything that works into their schedule. There is no minimum commitment.

“Washington University students have consistently demonstrated deep concern for the well-being of K-12 students in urban school districts,” says Stephanie Kurtzman, director of the Community Service Office and associate director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service.

“An impressive number of them have made a weekly commitment to tutoring and mentoring through Each One Teach One and other initiatives and we are now able to provide a complementary opportunity to engage with K-12 students through one-time events and special projects,” Kurtzman says. “We are hopeful that this program will support more students in building connections with our local classrooms and that we can also develop procedures to most efficiently match needs and interests.”

Throughout the year, volunteers will be encouraged to attend specialized workshops and training sessions to learn more about St. Louis schools and about effective involvement in high-needs districts.

By signing up for the K-12 Connections listserv, volunteers also will be informed about special events or public lectures being held on campus related to urban education.

“For many years, the Department of Government and Community Relations has been bringing large groups of K-12 students to campus to participate in the academic and cultural life of Washington University,” says Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local government affairs.

“Often the interaction between university and K-12 students is the highlight of the field trip for these young people who aspire to attend college in the future. I look forward to turning to the K-12 Connections programs to match interested Washington University students with meaningful opportunities for engagement with our public school partners,” Adelstein says.

For more information, to sign up on the listserv, or to request volunteers for an event, go to