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 Sandy Holman then and now photoIn 1967, Sandy Holman graduated from South High School.
And she never truly left.
The smiling, welcoming face of both Colt Nation and volunteering within the District, Ms. Holman was recently given the spotlight by Stand for Children, a non-profit education advocacy organization focused on ensuring all students receive a high quality, relevant education.
In the piece “Community Volunteerism Raises Student Engagement,” the author wrote, “When I think of effective community volunteerism, I think of Sandra Holman, an amazing person who has volunteered with Pueblo School District 60 for 45 years.
“Ms. Holman exemplifies what it means to give back to your community. She is a one-of-a-kind champion for our students. Her contributions are inspiring and offer insights on how schools can effectively engage community members.”
For Ms. Holman, a half century of volunteering was inspired by the words of David Wilkerson, South’s first principal: “No matter what, always give back to your school, no matter how you can.”
Rather than monetary donations, Ms. Holman elected to follow Principal Wilkerson’s words in a much more rewarding way.
“I thought the best way I could do it is to be there for the kids and do what I can for the teachers to make their life a bit easier,” she said.
And that she has, remaining a constant and positive source of support and inspiration for South students while serving in a variety of capacities, from checking in visitors to the school to assisting with athletic events to, during the depth of the pandemic, checking temperatures and giving out masks.
Ms. Holman also plays a key role within South’s 9th Grade Champions Program, which pairs freshmen with a staff member or volunteer who checks grades twice a month, builds relationships and advocates in times of need.
Here are excerpts from an interview with Ms. Holman conducted by Stand for Children:
What motivates you to support high school students, especially the ninth graders?
Sandy: Well, they're just new to the school, which is big, and they're just not too sure. And I think because they need encouragement, telling them, “You can do this, there's no such thing as failing.” They need to hear, “Everybody is capable of getting good grades; everybody is capable of graduation.” They just need a little incentive to get going and to know somebody's there to help.
What do champions do to support 9th grade students?
Sandy: I ask them how they're doing, and if there's anything they need, and tell them what I’m there for. So, if they have any problems, I'm there every day; they could come and talk to me or I can help them the best I can, or at least get them to the right person to help them.
Tell me about the Box of Wishes you made for your 9th graders.
Sandy: I saw something like it in Women's World and I put it to my own thing. The box wishes is just a little box with a heart, which equals love; a lady bug, which is for luck; a feather, which is for laughter, so you remember to laugh every day; a money bag for prosperity: no matter what you got, you're going to prosper in it; a diploma for wisdom, because you are smart and you can do it; and a little teddy bear for friendship. I just put it in a little box with the little sayings on it. And every day, if they get a chance to look at it, they could do it.
What advice do you have for students?
Sandy: I would like just to let them know that we are there for them. We're not just there to teach them, but we are there to encourage them to know that they can do this. If they're having problems, we're there to direct them to the right people that could help them. We want them to know they are not forgotten. They are part of South High’s family.
What advice do you have for school leaders who might be interested in starting a Champions program?
Sandy: I think it should be talked about more, and let students know the reason why the school is doing it. Have the program not only for ninth graders, but maybe offer it for brand new students that came into the school from another school, or from another state: so they can feel part of whatever is going on at school, and that we're there for them.