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Calling all volunteers

The School District of New Richmond is seeking more classroom grandparents, at least that's what the elementary students call them.

Classroom grandparents, otherwise known as those enrolled in the district's Senior Tax Exemption Program (STEP), is open to seniors 62 years and older living within the district's boundary.

STEP offers seniors the opportunity to volunteer in the schools in exchange for credit of property taxes. Each household enrolled in the program is required to put in 78 hours each school year in exchange for $507 of property tax credit. Currently there are 35 to 40 enrolled, with about 12 open spaces, said Cheryl Emerson, director of Community Education and manager of the STEP program.

"Many of our seniors go above and beyond their hours because they like it so much," she said. "It's a very rewarding position."

Seniors of all different backgrounds and seniors with a variety of interests are needed.

"We offer a variety of positions for our seniors," she said. "They can work with any grade level or with any staff. We have one gentleman who is working with our athletic director and acting as a host for visiting sports teams when they visit."

Emerson said all seniors are matched to a volunteer position within the district based on their interests.

"It could be computers, landscaping, office work, newsletters..." she said.

The most popular positions are with the district's youngest learners - those in kindergarten through fifth grade, she said.

"Our biggest need is at the middle school and high school," she said. "Particularly those with an interest in art, science or math."

Teaching experience is not necessary for STEP workers, Emerson said.

"We take people of all backgrounds," she said. "They fill out an application and are interviewed and then we match them with a staff member who has requested some help."

Emerson said it's important to find a good match for the volunteers.

"We really try to create a good marriage of sorts," she said. "We want it to be a long-term position."

Last year New Richmond's STEP workers put in 3,800 hours at the schools.

Those interested in becoming a STEP volunteer or those simply looking for more information are encouraged to call Community Education at 715-243-7421.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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