Using Parent Volunteers

When we think of school volunteers, many of us immediately envision PTA-style bake sales and booster clubs. While the enthusiasm is the same, the role of a college parent volunteer is, by its nature, a different experience. At Emerson College, we have a Family Ambassador program of approximately 16 members. The program has worked well and maintains appropriate boundaries for the needs of our campus of 4,400 undergraduates.

Before I appoint a Family Ambassador, I make sure that the parent has had a discussion with their student about the role. I want to make sure that the student is comfortable with the parent helping in any capacity. I find it important to recognize that the campus space “belongs” to the student, and the parent is a guest.

I take self or peer nominations for the Family Ambassador position. I find it’s important to have a mix of first-year families to parents of seniors; Ambassadors that come from many of the states the College draws from; parents representing many races; international parents; parents of athletes; parents of LGBTQ+ students; and other large groups on campus. I want the parents to be able to speak with authenticity about the experience at our College. As social media is a large part of the parent role in our Family Ambassador program, we look for parents who have reached out in kind and helpful ways to other family members.

The responsibilities of the role include:

  • Welcoming new families into the Emerson community

    • Participating in Orientation as possible (at registration, information table, panel discussion, or via Zoom)

    • Attending “Summer Send Off” Events if they take place in your city/area

    • Participating in the “Newly Accepted Family” Facebook group for the next cohort of families

  • Being a voice for the interests of family members

    • Giving opinions, feedback, and suggestions about planned changes, events, and programs of the campus (Family Ambassadors have been asked to participate in meetings with the Emerson Board of Trustees)

    • Participating in the “Parent and Family” Facebook group

  • Volunteering at family-centered events such as Family Weekend and Commencement, as possible

    • Ambassadors who are comfortable in speaking roles may be asked to participate in Orientation, etc.

  • Special projects (for example, the Student Food Pantry outreach)

    • Spearheading emergency outreach and drives (hurricanes, fires, etc.)

For their efforts, the family members receive a spiffy polo shirt to wear to events, occasional “insider” information, and VIP seating for graduation.

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