Story by Erika Pedroza
If there were a perfect attendance award for volunteers, Maria (Vela) Taylor would win it. The mom of two Travis Middle School students has logged hours at the school every day since the first day of school – sometimes volunteering as many as 10 hours if she’s helping with the concessions stand at football games.
“I love it,” she says. “You know the phrase ‘It takes a village?’ It really does. Working as a community, if we know each other, we can watch out for each other and fix problems together.”
As PTA president, Taylor is charged with planning fundraisers and events for the school. You can also find her in the Parent Center, making copies of assignments for teachers, laminating materials, cutting poster boards or chaperoning field trips and events.
But her most important job, she says, is simply being a presence.
“Sometimes a student just needs a ‘hello’ or a ‘good morning,'” she says. “Just a simple interaction can make the kids have a good day. That’s is all it takes to volunteer.”
In addition to two students at Travis, Taylor has three grown children and three grandchildren. She runs a T-shirt business and is involved in the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. But she prioritizes helping out at the school.
“Time flies,” she says. “The kids grow up too quick, and I don’t want to have regrets. It is important to be here and know what’s going on. It’s important for kids to see parents in the school. I think the children appreciate their parents being here, even if they don’t say so. They know that you care. It builds their morale.”
“Most of all, with teenagers who don’t communicate anything, you need to be involved so you can know what’s going on.”
Once a single parent balancing multiple jobs, Taylor understands that not everyone can volunteer as much as she is able to now. But she encourages everyone do something.
“I get it. I was a single parent, too, and sometimes you have to work two jobs,” she says. “But that’s why you get involved and build community with people that will help you take care of your children. I don’t mind staying here [at the school] or having the kids come over to my house even. But you have to put yourself out there and build the community.”
“If I got paid, I wouldn’t want to do it,” she says. “I’m just serving and meeting a need.”