For almost 40 years, PENCIL has been linking community resources to Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to help young people achieve academic success and prepare for life. PENCIL, which stands for Public Education Needs Community Involvement and Leadership, “envisions a world where access and opportunities are equitable for all students to have a successful future.”
Most people know of PENCIL Partners and PENCIL Academy Partners, the businesses, organizations and individuals that pair with MNPS to provide support, resources and activities. Each of the 700-plus partnerships is unique and designed to serve the individual needs of the school and the partner throughout the year. However, for an individual or intimate group wanting to pitch in on a smaller scale, PENCIL offers fulfilling volunteer opportunities for them too.
Our team was excited to learn about the Together 4 Teachers program and its outdoor pep rally. Created in collaboration with Director of Schools Adrienne Battle, the program’s goal is to ensure every classroom teacher in MNPS has access to high-need supplies. More than 5,000 bags were stuffed to distribute to teachers at First Horizon Park on the Monday before school opened.
On a sweltering August afternoon, we helped move canvas trucks weighed down with bags — two eighteen-wheelers full! — to a spot to be distributed. When the pep rally opened, we watched over the putt-putt course, allowing teachers an opportunity to have a little fun. It was rewarding to watch hundreds of educators and MNPS staff enjoying music, activities, stadium snacks and, of course, one another.
Shifts are always available at the LP PENCIL Box, housed in the warehouse at PENCIL headquarters. Here, shelves are stocked with donated pencils, crayons, copy paper, notebooks, backpacks, glue sticks, hand sanitizer and more — all supplies that students need. Teachers “shop” for free for items that they would otherwise spend their own money on. Volunteers handle regular retail jobs, such as checking teachers out and restocking shelves, but if you want to work a die-cut machine, maybe the Classroom Creatives section will interest you with its flashcards and other hands-on teaching tools.
If you have more time, consider the High Impact Tutoring program. PENCIL screens, trains and places a volunteer with a K-12 student for personalized, one-on-one tutoring and ensuring each student is known, supported and academically on track. The time commitment is only a few hours a week for 12 weeks: two for training and 10 for tutoring via a secure virtual classroom.
Photographs by Jacki Artis and Tommy Lawson Photography