Meet Jennifer Freitas – Dublin Elementary School Run Club Volunteer and Difference Maker
As we have learned throughout this series, adult volunteers can come in many shapes and sizes. Further, some folks are capable of assisting solely after school or in the evenings. And, others can become completely embedded within a school site.
OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to visit with Jennifer Freitas. Jennifer attained a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from California State University Fresno and a Master of Physical Therapy from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland. With a rapidly growing family, she decided to devote her energies in supporting her children and to their school. Ms. Fretias grew up in Dublin and attended Murray Elementary School, Wells Middle School and Dublin High School. She has also captured the rare trifecta of enrolling all three of her children concurrently at Dublin Elementary. Bradley is a fifth grader, Ashley is in third and young Andrew is in first grade.
She invited us during a Friday lunch period so that we could witness the Run Club. This activity occurs bi-monthly and involves a large portion of the enrollment. We gathered her thoughts on this program and on other fundraising efforts.
OneDublin.org: The Run Club is a fully formed program at Dublin Elementary. Please explain how this came to be. As an organizer, how did you assemble your army of volunteers?
Jennifer Freitas: “I am a runner and I love running. I had been looking for a track/ running program to enroll my kids in and couldn’t find anything that fit what I was looking for. I had been talking with a fellow mom and runner about a run club that she did at her son’s school in Pleasanton and it sparked a fire. Strangely enough, it was about the same time that Lauren approached me and asked if I had any interest in helping with a lunchtime run club. We had a meeting to brainstorm how we would run it and thus Run Club, as we know it at Dublin Elementary, was born. The first year was 2013. We had a few run clubs at the end of the year. It was such a hit that the following year, we decided to hold run club twice a month throughout the year. We are now in our second full year of run club! Every other month I check in with Lauren and her secretary Nancy, to put the dates for the next few months on the calendar. Lauren orders the special charms that we hand out to the kids. I write occasional announcements for our weekly newsletter and an email blast to inform parents of the dates for each month and the details. Some include the benefits of running, wearing proper shoes, bringing and drinking water, etc. These newsletters are also the place where I ask for any volunteers. I currently have +nine volunteers that help me on various weeks and it is helpful to have at least two or three other helpers each week. I have a sign-up genius link that I send to them as the dates are set-up. Most of the original volunteers are my friends and we have children in the same grades.”
OneDublin.org: Historically, Dublin Elementary has been very effective at fundraising. Share your thoughts on the Jaws-a-Thon and how do the funds raised impact the classrooms?
Freitas: “My co-chair, Andrea Reak, and I have been doing the jog-a-thon for three years together. It used to be held in November with the prize of a frozen turkey for the top fundraiser or runner. We were asked by the PFC to revamp\revitalize it and raise some serious money. We decided to offer prizes to top fundraisers. These are donated from local businesses for fun activities like Rockin Jump, Chuck E Cheese, Zone Laser Tag and many more. We start soliciting local businesses in July and August for prizes. Two years ago we also added in a business sponsor component and this year we raised $2,250+ just from corporate sponsors! We use this money to purchase t-shirts that you can only get through being a top achiever in the Jaws-a-thon. We have our “Totally JAWsome” logo on the front and then the names and logos of our sponsors on the back. Kids earn these shirts by raising $100 or more. Kids are also entered in a raffle for $50 or more. We ask each child to raise $32 and if all 700+ did this we would raise $22,000! But we have so many families who donate above and beyond that our top fundraiser this year brought in over $600.00! And, over 100 kids got shirts! I think our prizes motivate the kids and our event motivates the parents. It is an amazing community building event.
“It takes the entire school day, we start with an opening ceremony, where classes get to show their costumes and school spirit, then each grade level runs during an assigned time. We have music blasting, we invite family and friends to come cheer on the runners and we have over 120 volunteers throughout the day, helping to count and tally laps, pass out water and otter pops. It is a fun event that starts off our year with a bang and each year we have grown in school spirit, in community involvement, and in the amount of money we raise. The money we raise goes towards the technology and field trip budgets that PFC funds. The extra amount we raise goes into our general fund and it gets used as the PFC community needs it, generally when teachers or grade levels come to us with requests for supplies or programs.”
OneDublin.org: When you stop to think about it, how does it feel to know that your children will eventually promote up through the same middle and high schools that you attended?
Freitas: “I love that my kids are going through the same school district as both my husband, Jeff and I did. Our community is special in that people may leave for a bit, but they often come back. Dublin is still home to many of our classmates and friends. It is a great community and I love that I am so connected, even with Wells and Dublin High. Some teachers I had are still there and some classmates of mine are now teachers and staff. I am confident that they are getting a good education and being involved means that I have a part in that.”
OneDublin.org: What advice would you offer to any parent that may be interested in volunteering, but doesn’t know how to get started?
Freitas: “My advice is to come to a PFC meeting or a School Site Council meeting. We go over a lot of information that you may not otherwise know. I have been attending PFC meetings since my youngest was in Kindergarten and it has helped me to meet other parents, keeps me up to date with what going on at the schools and it lets me know (and be a part of the decision making) how the PFC spends the money we raise. The other suggestion is to read the newsletter and eblasts – these are often the methods in which volunteer jobs are posted. Volunteering is fun and rewarding. It is often a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I love that the kids know me and I know them. It gives me a glimpse into my kids school lives and helps me be connected to them. I have met many wonderful parents through volunteering and have developed relationships with the teachers and staff at Dublin Elementary.”
So, here is an example of a volunteer that is graced with the gift of time and is taking full advantage of it and is making a very positive impact. Further, Jennifer has been able to share her passion for running and fitness with an entire school population. OneDublin.org would like to commend Ms. Freitas and her army of volunteers for all of their efforts. It’s “JAWsome.”