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Island Park Rallies to Keep Hand-in-Hand Program

The Island Park PTA must raise $200,000 to preserve the positions of 6 paraprofessional teachers.

Island Park Elementary School PTA has announced it will host their 11th Annual Hand-in-Hand auction on March 10th at the Washington State Convention Center Skybridge to preserve provides 6 teachers assistant/paraprofessional positions. 

Due to the lack of funds in the school budget to support the Hand-in-Hand program, the Island Park PTA and parents are responsible each year for raising 100 percent of the cost. They must raise $200,000 for the 2012-2013 school year. Dr. Nancy Loorem, Principal, appreciates the amount of effort it takes.

“Every year the PTA and parent volunteers dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to support this program," Loorem said. "We all know how vital these paraprofessionals are to the success of our students. I don’t know what we would do without the help that these teaching assistants provide.”

Island Park second-grade teacher Patty Lewis said the Hand-in-Hand program gives student one-on-one in reading and math then give teachers valuable feedback for what each child's learning needs are.  

"They also work with small groups to challenge students as well as support struggling students, reducing the class size and allowing classroom teachers to individualize instruction more effectively," she said. "Our kids are getting more targeted instruction and individual attention."

Through community building events such as Bingo Night, a Sock-Hop and the Hand-in-Hand auction as well as support from local businesses who donate a percentage of their sales throughout the year, Island Park has been able to keep the program going despite the recent economic downturn. But the PTA says it still needs help.

“We are in need of additional sponsors to support the event,” said Erin McLaughlin, Auction Chair. “Sponsors starting at the $250 level are given many opportunities to advertise their business at the auction in front of 300 guests, in addition to other members of the Island Park community through our website and various school publications. It is a great way to support our students while advertising at the same time.”

Some paraprofessionals at Island Park have a background in teaching while others bring other professional skills such as marketing, architecture, and accounting.

Beyond giving individual instruction to each student, the Hand-in-Hand paraprofessionals also teach enrichment classes, ensure fair play during recess, and offer “Recess Camp” for those not as comfortable participating in the traditional playground setting.

“At Recess Camp we offer art projects, Lego construction, games of chess and even teach kids to sew,” said Libby Wotipka, a third-grade paraprofessional. “In the winter we sew pillows and donate them to non-profit organizations. Often kids ask to keep the pillows for themselves, which opens the opportunity for us to teach them about the necessity to give to those in need.”

Donations for the auction have been collected from local businesses, parents, friends and teachers of the Island Park community, and students in each classroom collaborate to create a piece of art. “I’m always amazed at pieces that the classes submit each year,” says Loorem.

Artist and Mercer Island resident Jim Olson, who volunteered this year to help create a piece for Mrs. Lewis’ 2nd grade class, was inspired by the student’s creativity. "One should never lose sight of the sense of wonder children experience in simple things,” states Olson. “This gift of youth, if maintained, will benefit us all as we age.  In Mrs. Lewis' class that day, I came away renewed."

Tickets to attend the auction at the Washington State Convention Center Skybridge to support IslandPark’s Hand-in-Hand program are available to the public. To purchase tickets, make a donation or become a sponsor, visit the Island Park PTA website: www.islandparkpta.org/handinhand.

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