Nederland ISD launches “Men Enriching Nederland Schools” volunteer program

Published 12:20 am Friday, September 27, 2019

NEDERLAND — A study done by Education Week says approximately 77 percent of teachers are women, with an even higher rate at the primary level, where nearly 9 in 10 teachers are female. For decades, education has been a field dominated by female role models and figures, while men often fall to the wayside — something Nederland ISD is hoping to balance out.

This year, the Nederland Independent School District is launching volunteer program “Men Enriching Nederland Schools.” The program encourages men of the community to become an active part in students’ lives.

“We did some assessments on the campuses and asked what their needs were,” said Rene’ Latiolais, program coordinator. “It ranged from all sorts of things, like encouraging better reading skills, language arts, character building and those types of things.

“A lot of campuses also said they would love to have people that can showcase to these students that there are people in our community who care about them and want to give back. That’s why we created this program.”

Latiolais saw the benefit in having male figures and role models around the schools, such as having an extra set of eyes and ears in the campuses.

“They’ll be helping with drop-off and pickup,” she said. “They might be helping in the library to pick out books. Cafeteria duty is on the list, helping open ketchup packets and sitting down with the kids. Walking the halls and that sort of thing. It will be a positive thing for everybody.”

Richard Landry, one of the volunteers for M.E.N. is a firefighter for Port Neches. He said he is taking the opportunity to be a part of the program to spend extra time with his son, who goes to Highland Park.

“For a lot of them, they might not have that father figure,” Landry said. “That might not be their fault, it could be a number of reasons. This is a way for us to give back and be there.”

James VanDevender, a retired law enforcement officer, wants to use his extra time throughout the day to help make a difference in kids’ lives.

“I was a D.A.R.E. officer in this district back in 1999-2001,” he said. “I just love working with kids, making sure they are safe and helping things run smoothly. We want to make a positive impact and do whatever we can to make it a great day here in Nederland.”

James Pruitt, a process operator at Valero, wants to be a positive male influence, adding community members need to encourage “our youth.”

“If we see them in the halls, we give them high-fives, handshakes and they can see men around,” he said. “Us being a positive influence, that’s something they may not have at home that we can provide, even if it’s for a small moment.”

Latiolais said she hopes the program would be successful and benefit the students and the community in a progressive way.

“Our hope is the (students) realize that there are people in our community that have a servant’s heart and want to share with them their love of public education,” she said. “There’s people outside the walls of their school and I hope that they see that they can give back later when the opportunity arises.”

Each volunteer must pass a background check, fill out an application and go through training before being allowed on campus. If interested, please contact Rene’ Latiolais at ratiolais@nederlandisd.org or call (409) 726-2223.