Volunteer of the Month — Natalia Guarin-Klein

Natalia is a mom to three kids, Evan (6th grade at BSI) and Natalia (1st) and Elaina (3rd) who are at TAOTS. This year Natalia had the idea to organize a Q&A with STEM professionals in a variety of exciting careers and give our kids a chance to engage with them. She organized the STEM Career Panel and brought together a Conservation Educator from the Prospect Park Zoo, a Volunteer/Intern Supervisor in the Behavioral Husbandry Department of the NY Aquarium, a Wildlife Biologist from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Data Scientist from IBM, a Technical Manager in Cloud Engineering at Google, a Computer Science Sophomore/Web Developer Intern/Co-Director of the Women in Computer Science Club at Brooklyn College to answer questions from our kids. Here’s what some parents said:

  • “It was an amazing discussion. I think the kids learned a lot and so did I! Thank you for organizing! I hope it can be repeated in the future.”
  • “I just wanted to let you know that tonight’s event was really great! Thank you so much for putting it together and for including alumni. I wish I had been exposed to some of that information when I was a kid. You really gave the kids a valuable gift tonight. Thank you !”
  • “I found it very helpful in guiding our kids to make decisions that will have a positive impact for their future. The panel covered a lot tonight!”

We checked in with our Volunteer of the Month for some advice and inspiration.

Why did you want a STEM Career Panel for BSI and TAOTS kids?

In my line of work I help [college] students prepare for their careers. We hosted a similar event and I thought it was important for students to hear the advice in the younger grades. STEM careers continue to be in demand and I believe that by the time students get to high school if they haven’t chosen a career in the area that they are likely not going to pursue it. The earlier they are exposed to it, the more likely they will feel confident to continue to pursue it as they get older.

How did you make it a reality?

Most of it involved sending the proposed idea to the respective principals and making it clear that if they were interested that I would do the heavy lifting in regards to work load. Once they gave me the green light I reached out to my contacts to see if they were interested. The BSI staff were very easy to work with and were instrumental in helping with the logistical aspects of the event.

Do you have any thoughts about how we share our building with TAOTS or other ideas for working together?

As a parent with kids in both schools, I volunteer as much as I can to help both every year whether it be PTO, class parent or just organizing events for my grade. I was very happy to organize an event that benefited both schools and think events such as these help to build a connection and for the schools to work together to share resources. BSI has been great at opening up events such as chess and/or fall harvest to include TAOTS as well. Perhaps we could start some kind of sports game, movie night or other event where kids can showcase a project or other idea.

What advice would you have for other parents at BSI who are thinking about volunteering or starting something positive at BSI?

Just do it!  Pick one thing that you can do, maybe it is organizing an outing for your grade, helping maintain the website or offering to help your teacher with coordinating field trips. Despite both of us working full time and having 3 kids, we each make it a priority to give back to both schools for the past 7 years because it is that important.

1) Helped us build stronger ties to our schools. It has helped us feel connected.

2) Makes it easier to approach the teacher or principal when we have a concern, a request or constructive feedback. It is hard to bring up an issue, if that is the first interaction they have had with you.

3) It is an opportunity to show our kids the importance of giving back. We teach them that helping is important even when there isn’t an immediate payoff and that in the long run when you might need something others will be there to help you because of your giving nature.

Natalia, you and your family have been incredibly active and reliable volunteers, always working to make our school great. Your positive attitude and collaborative spirit make us all want to do more and do better! Thank you for your work and your commitment to our kids and their futures.