JUMPING IN WITH BOTH FEET
October 02, 2012
When first testing the waters of the volunteering pool, some prefer to dip a toe and wade in gradually. That’s not Nydia Villafane’s style. When her daughter Mia started kindergarten at Children’s Community School last year, this full-time working mom of three jumped right in with both feet. At one point she even sported webbed feet for a volunteer activity at the Waterbury, Conn., school! Villafane skipped the shallow end, headed straight for the deep end, and hasn’t regretted a single moment.
“It’s funny because I look back and I don’t remember one time that my mother attended anything at school,” Villafane says. “But I do. I do so want to be a part of it.” It’s helpful that her employer, a major financial firm, gives staff the equivalent of two paid days off to volunteer in the community. Villafane takes full advantage of the compensated hours and rolls in some personal time as well to make a difference wherever she can.
In her first year as a school volunteer, Villafane collected Box Tops for Education and recruited coworkers and extended family to help with the task. The final result was a first-place finish for her daughter’s class in the schoolwide collection drive. Next, Villafane rolled up her sleeves to manage the face-painting booth at the school’s annual Santa breakfast. It was something she’d never attempted before, and she admits experiencing some initial trepidation over her artistic capabilities. So she brought paints home and practiced diligently. Soon she was able to graduate from simple designs to depictions as elaborate as Spiderman.
Perfecting her previously undiscovered talent, Villafane has been tickled to find herself labeled “the face painter” around school. She was even asked to ply her skills at a school-sponsored 5K community race. “When the kids get a peek at themselves, the look on their faces...it’s priceless,” she says. She plans to pursue similar artistic ventures in the 2012-13 school year.
Yet if Villafane could pinpoint only one activity that drove home just how much her participation at school matters, it would have to be the day she donned a duck suit. Children’s Community School sells tickets to the annual Naugatuck Duck Race, a local charity fundraising event. Purchasers get their number printed on a rubber ducky’s bottom in hopes that it will be plucked from hundreds thrown in the river and declared a prizewinner. Of course, the marketing gimmick for ticket sellers is to...well, you guessed it. But nobody wanted to wear the duck outfit until Villafane stepped up. She thought it would be fun.
“I went to every classroom. I danced with the kids. I gave out candy but nobody knew it was me, including my own daughter,” she says. “The best part was the end of the day when I stood waiting with the kids for the bus. In costume, I bent over and told my daughter it was me. If you could have seen the look on her face! I just love to make her...all the kids happy. It motivates me to do even more.”
It’s no idle sentiment. Villafane has chaperoned a field trip to the Bronx Zoo. She’s cooked for the PTO’s potluck. And she doesn’t rule out the possibility of one day taking on a bigger role within that organization. “I would like to [later on] be more involved because it’s an awesome experience,” she says.
With her enthusiasm and commitment, Villafane truly exemplifies the spirit of Children’s Community School.
Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo: Tina Petta-Pelletier