For the last six years, Patti Puckett has spent her Saturdays tutoring, mentoring and expanding the horizons of at-risk elementary school students in Atlanta, GA through the Hands On Atlanta Discovery Program. Through her volunteer efforts and her full-time job as an education reporter for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Patti is fully aware of the challenges facing urban schools in Georgia today.
The Discovery Program is a model educational initiative that boosts the aspirations and self-confidence of students through a multi-faceted, volunteer-led program. The program strives to show students the importance of education and to broaden their horizons. Through their participation, volunteers see first-hand the challenges facing schools and the needs of students in low-income communities. Two or more times a month, interactive tutoring sessions are held in 10 schools for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grades. Volunteer leaders serve as school captains and grade captains. A school captain fills the role of the principal for the day, taking responsibility for logistics of the program and discipline matters. Grade captains plan enrichment activities for specific grade levels engaging volunteers while educating students.
Patti's commitment to bettering the education of these students is reflected in her dedication to this program. She has held every leadership and volunteer role possible in the program. She consistently provides extra support for the organization and the program. When the principal threatened to discontinue Discovery over lack of organization, Patti became the school captain. When no one knew what to do with the kids over the summer, she replicated the swim program from another Discovery school. When her co-captains resigned mid-year, she made sure she was there every Saturday and when the program manager found herself overwhelmed, Patti took on some of her responsibilities as well. She single-handedly coordinated a portion of the Discovery Conference involving reading specialists while running a Summer Discovery Swimming Program.
In addition to her volunteer efforts, Patti is a spokesperson for the needs of the students she educates. She welcomes other reporters through her work to join her for a Discovery session, exposing them to the needs of the schools and the opportunities for the community to give back. She shows them a need and a solution.
The principal at Whitefoord Elementary School remarks, "I think the thing that stands out the most about Patti is the consistency of her commitment to the students at Whitefoord."