About the Author: Donna M. Butler serves in the Executive Division of the Bureaus of Near Eastern and South & Central Asian Affairs. She is also the Coordinator of the U.S. State Department-Miner Elementary School Tutoring/Mentoring Partnership Program.
This year we commemorate the first September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, inspired Americans to come together in a spirit of unity. Today, President Obama, the Corporation for National and Community Service, MyGoodDeed and the 9/11 families ask all Americans to remember that Tuesday eight years ago and recommit to service in their communities. Tens of thousands of volunteers in all 50 states are expected to answer their call.
As a young person, I was blessed in my life to have individuals who encouraged me to give back through my church and school. They demonstrated to me that volunteerism is important to building and maintaining our communities.
In that spirit, I am truly privileged to coordinate the U.S. Department of State’s partnership with Miner Elementary School. For 12 years, the State Department has sought to provide at least 100 volunteers a year to tutor at least one hour per week at Miner Elementary School, one of the Washington, D.C. public elementary schools whose students have been identified as most in need of help, in terms of reading skills, by D.C. school officials and other government agencies.
Before coordinating this program, I participated in it as a volunteer. My colleague John Arbogast, an attorney here at the State Department, founded the program with former Miner Elementary School principal Angela Tilghman. Their leadership and efforts to sustain the program inspired my participation. My continued involvement has been motivated by the stories of the students. Many have endured very difficult and tragic situations, even at their young and tender ages.
Miner Elementary School’s dedicated teachers and staff have remained creative and committed partners. I would like to recognize some of our current trailblazers: Principal LaVonne Taliferro-Bunch, faculty member Donita Holt, my faithful and dedicated assistant Lily Savic, and the many, many other volunteers from the past and present. Their spirit of giving is immeasurable, and my humble gratitude goes out to them.
Together, the teachers and volunteers have accomplished a lot, in the one-on-one tutoring and other ways. In past years, State volunteers, among other undertakings, started a newspaper at the school, taught civics and music classes, and assisted in the production of the school play. State volunteers have also helped with several school visits to the State Department, including the “Groundhog Job Shadow Day.” These activities have also encouraged similar partnerships on the part of other government agencies.
As the President and First Lady said, “No force for change is more powerful than that of Americans who are making a difference in their communities. This September 11, and in the days, weeks, and months that follow, let us recommit ourselves to service, renew America’s promise, and work together as one people and one Nation.”
September 11 continues to evoke strong emotions and commemorate sacrifice. It is also a call to action. There are many ways you can become involved. Serve.gov is an online resource where you can find volunteer opportunities in your community. Be inspired by stories of service from around the United States and create your own.