A Look at Volunteering From Both Sides 

Meet Carlos Calderon, MNPS teacher and PENCIL Connect volunteer

April was National Volunteer Month, a time dedicated to promoting, encouraging, and celebrating volunteerism. At PENCIL, we are beyond grateful for the organizations and individuals that give tens of thousands of hours each year to Metro schools and students through our programs. 

To everyone who has ever been a Reading Buddy to a young student, sorted and stocked goods in our DG PENCIL Box, hosted high school students for an industry tour or job shadow, and more, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude.  You make it possible for us to carry out our mission, and you also make it a joy to do so.

We met one special MNPS teacher whose relationship with – and enthusiasm for – PENCIL covers all the bases. Carlos Calderon has been a friend of PENCIL since 2016 when the then-new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lead teacher at McMurray Middle School made his first “shopping” trip to the DG PENCIL Box. Today, he is one of the founding educators at Aventura Community School, the first MNPS dual-language school.  He teaches an adorable kindergarten class, runs the school’s STEM program, and still relies on the PENCIL Box for supplies. “I am so grateful for every single thing that we receive, not for us but because it benefits the students,” he says.

Carlos truly values what PENCIL volunteers bring to his school and students. He uses PENCIL Connect, our online volunteer matching platform, to post opportunities and thinks it’s a great way to promote school events. “That is the best thing that you’ve ever created!” he exclaimed. Recently, more than one dozen volunteers signed up to help at Aventura’s first Family STEM Night and guided a much larger than expected crowd of families through fun, age-appropriate activities. 

Not only does Carlos recruit volunteers through PENCIL Connect, he also uses it to find opportunities at other MNPS schools. He regularly signs up for Family Nights, STEM Nights, and other fairs and celebrations where his fluency in English and Spanish comes highly appreciated. Carlos is a familiar face to many teachers and staff, and those who don’t know him can’t miss his hand-painted Einstein shirt and steampunk hat at STEM events. Carlos is such an enthusiastic, regular user and great spokesman for the platform that we named him our PENCIL Connect Volunteer of the Month in April. Thanks for all you do, Carlos! 

PENCIL Connect lists an array of events with MNPS schools looking for volunteers. Whether you want to give time, expertise, and service or you are an educator with an upcoming need, visit pencilforschools.org/pencil-connect to get started.