EdConnect volunteer, Julie Lawson, has described the joy of helping students overcome challenges and reach their potential after dedicating the past 20 years to volunteering at Falcon Primary School.
Ms Lawson is one of about 150 EdConnect volunteers who last year provided around 250 hours of support each week to about 1,500 students across the Kwinana, Peel and Upper South West areas through the Connecting Generations for School Success Program funded by the Alcoa Foundation.
Ms Lawson started volunteering at the school after moving to Mandurah in 2000, following a desire to get involved in the community and meet new people.
Her role quickly grew from listening to students read, to helping with maths, spelling, word games and even running a lunchtime knitting group.
She explained one of the most rewarding parts of her role was mentoring students and providing important one-on-one social and emotional support.
"I remember one young boy who came to me for reading," she said.
"He enjoyed it so much that his family started to buy him his own books which he didn't have before."
Ms Lawson began volunteering in the school library in 2010, her support assisted the smooth running of the library and included covering and sorting thousands of books, mending toys and assisting with book club.
Through her volunteering, Ms Lawson was able to build lifelong friendships and connections in her local community and loves to recount how "students would often come up to me in the shopping centre to say hello".
EdConnect has estimated Julie's contribution to the community could be valued at up to half a million dollars.
"But Julie's 20 years of service is worth so much more than the dollar value," EdConnect liaison officer Karen Barden said.
"We know that support from volunteers makes a real difference to student self-esteem, confidence and engagement at school, as well as their academic achievements. Julie has been a positive, caring and committed role model and has made a real and lasting difference to Falcon Primary School staff and students and the community as a whole."
Principal of Falcon Primary School Warren Bachman said Ms Lawson had, "a tremendous work ethic and a caring nature".
"Her assistance and support in the school library resulted in her receiving the Principal's Medal for Excellence in 2008," Mr Bachman said.
After making the decision to retire this year, Julie said she had appreciated being able to volunteer and encouraged others to give it a go.
"If they love children, there is always something to do at a school to help out," Julie said.
"You learn a lot about the children that need extra help and it is a joy to see them progress."
For more information about the EdConnect volunteering opportunities see edconnectaustralia.org.au or contact email@example.com.