Classroom volunteer helps kids, gains confidence

Education 21st Century

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A Topeka woman has found her voice and gained confidence after becoming a classroom volunteer.

Alexis “Lexi” Grisby is a big help in Lonna Latimer’s kindergarten class at State Street Elementary in Topeka.

Lexi is a classroom volunteer. She takes on various tasks in the classroom like helping students with their work, taking them to gym or music, and other various jobs.

Her time as a volunteer started by accident about 9 years ago. Grigsby was at State Street for an interview for a food service position.

“Lexi was just asked to come to my room until the principal showed up,” said State Street Kindergarten teacher Lonna Latimer.

So while she waited, Latimer put Grigsby to work hanging pictures in the hallway and working with students. Grigsby enjoyed it so much, she showed up again the next day, but she was too nervous to go back into the classroom.

“She stood in the hallway, she wouldn’t come into my room,” said Latimer. “She wouldn’t talk to us and she wouldn’t interact with us.”

That’s because Grigsby is believed to have Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of autism. That sometimes makes her shy and quiet.

But since she started volunteering, something has changed. Latimer said Grigsby has really opened up and has become more social.

“I’m not shy anymore,” said Grigsby.

That is thanks, in large part, to Latimer. She has worked to push Lexi out of her comfort zone with work that challenges her.

Grigsby also works as a part-time food service worker at the school but comes in early and stays after her shift to volunteer in the classroom.

“I’m just so proud of her because she could stay home but she chooses not to do that,” said Latimer.

Latimer said that others should follow Grigsby’s example.

“People who are sitting home and not feeling fulfilled need to get out in our community, because our community needs you, our kids need you, and we need you,” said Latimer.

Latimer plans to retire at the end of the school year, but Grigsby said she will continue to volunteer because of the value that it adds to her life.

“I smile because the kids give me hugs,” said Grigsby.

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