Much of the success of any school is based on strong home-school-community partnerships that support student learning in and outside of the classroom. Having parents that are engaged and active members of the school community is one of Unity’s hallmarks. Over the years, many parents have continued to volunteer and stay involved long after their children had graduated. Last month, I attended Unity Charter School’s Volunteer Tea to recognize and thank the hard working volunteers who have given back so much to Unity. Having parents in the school throughout the day contributes to the friendly, open atmosphere. Although a volunteer may be serving lunch in the kitchen, they have an opportunity learn the name and the culinary preferences of each student. Kitchen volunteers are critical to maintaining Unity’s vegetarian, zero-waste lunch program. Not one cup or spoon is disposable, so that means many hands in dishwater. It is hard work, but it’s so worth it when you see your child’s smile when they get to the lunch counter. Being part of a community isn’t easy and it can only really thrive when there is a shared sense of responsibility and a willingness to show up, take part, and get involved. Unity’s volunteers are busy, with multiple competing demands on their time, yet they manage to lead interest groups, pick up laundry and chaperone field trips. There are too many tasks to mention that are accomplished by this parent workforce. Their efforts are honored and appreciated by their fellow community members, the staff and Board. But most importantly, it is worth noting that their presence is being noticed where it counts most…by our students. Volunteer support does more than stretch the bottom line. It is a vital teaching tool that reinforces so many different aspects of our mission. We can’t teach our children to appreciate participating in community service, but we can stand beside them and share the joy we feel in giving back. It is one thing to tell our children that we value zero-waste lunches, but another when we are willing to wash each dish and fork that supports that goal. It is nice to expound on the virtues of democratic governance, but they learn so much more when their parents come to the assemblies and committee meetings and voice their opinions. So I would like to extend a sincere thank you to our many parents, grandparents, and other family members who are not only Unity volunteers but also valued educators, role models, and community builders. Thank you for all you do and I wish you a happy, long and relaxing summer! Tina Bologna is the 2011-2012 Unity Board President. She lives in Morristown and works at a nonprofit conservation organization. She is a parent of two Unity students and a high school sophomore.