Volunteer role models sought to talk to fourth-graders in Sumter

Annual My Community and Me begins Sept. 4


Sumter Volunteers Inc. is looking for role models from organizations around the area for its annual My Community and Me program, where they will meet with fourth-graders in Sumter's elementary schools to talk about their roles around the county.

Jo Anne Morris, director of Sumter Volunteers, said the 2019 program, beginning on Sept. 4, will mark the 24th year the role models have talked to Sumter County students to provide them with information about local career and volunteer opportunities. It's "a unique hands-on learning experience" that fills a gap often not addressed in the schools, she said.

My Community and Me began as a summer camp effort to provide an enriching summer experience to about 30 at-risk Lemira School Camp students. They took seven field trips around the community accompanied by adult role models and high school students. The initiative led to the expansion of the program to the schools. An average of 1,000-plus students participate each year, Morris said.

In the past 23 years, My Community and Me has involved more than 22,000 local fourth-graders who benefited from area role models in such fields as local government, law enforcement, religion, media, education, industry and business, the arts, agriculture, recreation, charities, volunteerism, military, community services, health and more.

Each student is given a notebook with a section about these and other positions throughout the city and county, Morris said, so they can follow along with the speakers; the speakers form a circle around the students, speaking briefly, one at a time, about their own niche within Sumter.

The notebook is illustrated by several local artists, among them the late Ray Davenport, Sylvester Hickmon, Ashley Lareau, Kim Schneider and others.

"It's a different and exciting adventure in learning," Morris said. "It's interactive," with questions, fill-in-the-blank exercises and the words to the special My Community and Me song, which often closes the program in each school. Students also receive knowledge about careers they might consider in the future.

This year, 12 schools have opted to have My Community and Me presented to their fourth-graders. Because the program got its start with a class at Willow Drive Elementary School, it begins there each September shortly after classes start for the new school year.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to participate in My Community and Me as a role model should contact Jo Anne Morris in the Sumter Volunteer office, 12 W. Liberty St., which is in the Liberty Center, at (803) 775-7423.

My Community and Me schedule

- Sept. 4, Willow Drive Elementary School cafeteria

- Sept. 10, Millwood Elementary School cafeteria

- Sept. 11, Alice Drive Elementary School cafeteria

- Sept. 17, Wilder Elementary School multi-purpose room

- Sept. 18, Kingsbury Elementary School cafeteria

- Sept. 23, Lemira Elementary School cafeteria

- Sept. 24, Thomas Sumter Academy auditorium

- Sept. 25, Wilson Hall multi-purpose room

- Oct. 1, Cherryvale Elementary School gym

- Oct. 2, Manchester Elementary School cafeteria

- Oct. 8, Pocalla Elementary School Palmetto Room

- Oct. 9, R.E. Davis K-8 College Preparatory Academy

All circles begin at 9:30 a.m.