springboard to learning: The nonprofit strives to ignite a passion for learning by providing supplemental courses like poetry and theater that enrich the school experiences, especially in underserved districts.

Q| How long have you been a volunteer?
A| Thirty years.

Q| What made you interested in this particular cause?
A| My sister-in-law, Helen Shopmaker, is involved with Springboard (she is currently president emerita), and I was invited to a luncheon with her. I fell in love with the idea of the organization and the executive director at the time, Jean Roth-Jacobs. I also met the founder of Springboard that day, Elise Schweich. Since I was in between volunteer jobs at the time, I told Elise once they were settled at their new headquarters, I could maybe help out. Her response was, “How about this Thursday?” And now it’s been 30 years! I’ve worked with so many special people through the organization, not only in the office, but the teachers as well. They bring love into the classroom, and it’s reflected in everything they do. After witnessing the programs, everyone who gets involved becomes more and more interested and invested. It grows on you.

Q| What kind of volunteer work are you involved with?
A| I told them at the beginning that I would do anything except windows! I started out doing various things around the office, running errands and helping teachers get materials. I helped establish the Friends organization and now, as a board member, I’m on a committee that helps with quality control. I visit classrooms to encourage and support our teachers and to look for anything we can fix or improve. I’m also a coach for WiseWrite, our signature program in collaboration with The Rep that introduces students to theater. They each write a one-act play; many are actually produced on the main stage with real actors, and every script is published for the kids to take home. They work so hard, and we really push them forward with the project. Exposure is what we do best. We always hope it will help them do something great in the future.

Q| If you could do anything for the organization, what would it be?
A| We’re in a lot of schools already, but I would like us to be in more—underserved schools in particular. I witness such rewards from the work of our wonderful teachers; you can see it in the children’s responses when they experience something they’ve never even dreamed of. Students always know when a Springboard teacher is in the school, and they all want one in their classroom. Attendance is up on those days. One student wrote that Springboard is his dream supplier.

in the words of springboard to learning: “Shirley’s longtime support frees our teaching artists and staff to focus on creating and delivering beneficial educational programs for more than 33,000 students annually.”

[meet the springboard to learning board]
Seated: Dr. E. Wendy Sau l, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Carolyn Beimdiek; Anne-Christine McCormack ; executive director Cathy Hartmann; Shirley Sher; president Mary Steinau ; Dessa Kopp, Edward Jones; Mary Kay Lofgren, Rubin Brown; Cynthia Maritz; Alexis Tucci, Tucci Events. Standing: Pat rick McGinnis, Moneta Group; Robert Klutho, Conner Ash P.C.; Kat rin Tobben; Mary Weinstock; Carol Hall-Whittier; Philip Roush; Betsy Wack ; Tracey Temanson; Earl Shreckengast; Brian McGinnis, Emerson Process Controls. Not pictured: Nikki Lemkemeier, Mirthworks Tiles; Catherine Marek; Gerald Richardson, Evans & Dixon; Helen Shopmaker; Cheryl Whalen

Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton

[Know a standout volunteer? Nominate them to be featured at townandstyle.com/reachingoutawards or email tellus@townandstyle.com for more information.]