Category Archives: Figuring out a new work life

Rochester & Syracuse connections to Oz

Did you know that L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was likely influenced by the women’s suffrage movement? When he was writing his fantasy novel in 1900, it was unusual to have strong female characters such as Dorothy and Glinda. His mother-in-law was a feminist who collaborated with Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony.

Baum grew up in Syracuse and Chittenango, a suburb, which celebrates him with a yearly festival called Oz-Stravaganza.

For more about these connections to Oz, and about an exhibit based on the “Wizard of  Oz” movie that opens in Rochester Jan. 21, check out my stories in today’s “Democrat and Chronicle”:

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Dedicated school volunteers

Right after being laid-off, I signed up to volunteer at a new summer reading camp created by a volunteer from First Unitarian Church and held at School 22. Friends were doing it and I suddenly had the time to join them, two mornings a week, for six weeks.

The children, ages 3 to 6, were fun to work with. There were also some challenges. I jumped in and tackled needs that I noticed. I created name tags for each child using cardboard and string (because that’s what I had available). I tracked which volunteer read with which child, to encourage continuity from session to session. I kept track of time and moved the children from reading time to craft time to game/snack time.

Very soon, I was recruited to fill a part-time job coordinating the church’s school-year volunteer program at two city elementary schools: School 22 and Children’s School of Rochester #15. I’m filling in for someone on medical leave.

At first I didn’t think I should do the job. I’m a journalist, and I assumed I would focus all of my attention on work that uses my writing and reporting skills.

But after more thought, I saw multiple reasons why coordinating a tutoring program could be a good fit for me. I’m a city school graduate and I’ve been a city school volunteer off and on for 18 years. I want city students to be successful, and I think added attention, encouragement and tutoring from caring adults can help. So I’m a big fan of the program’s goal. And of work that matters. In turn, I benefit from seeing students faces light up when they see me. And it’s great to see students grasp new things — and to help them do so.

I so appreciate the remarkable number of people — more than 70 so far (doubling the size of the program) — who’ve come forward to volunteer.

(And yes, we could still use more volunteers, to reach more students.)

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