Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Get involved as a Community Volunteer Helping Students


September 13, 2018

SEELEY LAKE – Members of the community are invited to get involved in a new school volunteer resource program. “Community Volunteers Helping Students” is an opportunity for local professionals and individuals to share their professional skills and knowledge with students at Seeley-Swan High School and Seeley Lake Elementary. The intent for the program is to engage the community by recruiting individuals with specific areas of expertise whose goal is to support the faculty and staff on a demand basis.

CVHS Organizers Steve Bowen and Tom Browder met in 1965 when they were both college students working at the Seeley Lake Ranger District. They reconnected a couple years ago at the Swan Valley Museum and have since had conversations about how to incorporate community volunteers with students.

“This community has a jillion people, retired people and those that are still working, that have skills and knowledge and specialties,” said Bowen. “There are a lot of different areas that we could offer to the schools to utilize if they felt [their students] needed that kind of individual help.”

Browder worked in cooperate learning and development. The last three years he worked in New York was with educational technology in the classroom.

“You see the need out there. Then you come to Seeley and it is a long 60 miles from here to Missoula. I think a lot of that expertise doesn’t make it up the Blackfoot Valley,” said Browder.

Bowen is a National Volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America. He works with education and training programs and developing programs for the youth.

“We both have educational backgrounds ourselves,” said Bowen. “If this works in this small community, I can really see a similar drive being applicable to all the other school districts in the state and nationally. It’s just a matter of people helping other people and getting out there.”

Currently there is a list of community volunteers for Missoula County Public Schools for integration into the classrooms. However Bowen said he doesn’t feel it is convenient to be used in Seeley Lake and is more applicable to Missoula schools.

“We want to engage the community, expand the school experience and enhance learning,” said Bowen. “We don’t want to replace the teachers, we are going to help them if they want the help.”

Given the breadth of talent in the area, the program hopes to offer volunteers for three main areas of support: Industry skills (including technology, medicine, engineering, etc.), broad-based skills (including effective digital communication, critical thinking, team dynamics, etc.) and school subjects (core and elective options).

“If you ask large tech companies what their gaps are now it is less in the [Science, technology, engineering and mathematics] STEM and more in the board-based skills – can someone actually talk to a product team and explain what they are trying to for an app,” said Browder.

Depending on the needs identified by the teachers, Browder and Bowen see various modes of delivery including coaching and mentoring for individuals, workshops or other sessions with a small group and/or classroom presentations or demonstrations either in the classroom or through a webinar. All activities will be done within the school and it is at the discretion of the teachers who will make the volunteer request on behalf of their students.

“The outcome should be an enhanced learning environment that adds enrichment to the existing curriculum, provides for additional knowledge transfer and can include areas such as STEM and critical employment skills that are key to success in many fields of work today,” said Browder.

Bowen said that not only will this program help students, it is also an opportunity for retired members of the community and others with free time to reengage.

“If we can find people who will take that hour away from whatever else they are doing to give to the schools is a very humanitarian, civic outlook,” said Bowen.

Browder and Bowen look forward to collecting interested volunteers by the end of October. By the end of the year they will finalize the engagement process with the schools and volunteers and define a feedback process as well as establish a local pool of resources. They hope to launch the program in January.

Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to fill out the CVHS Seeley Lake School Volunteer Resource Application of Interest/Intent in this week’s Pathfinder. It can be dropped off by Oct. 15 at either the Pathfinder office at the Bison and Bear Center or at Seeley-Swan High School. Volunteers must complete a MCPS Volunteer Application and Background Check to participate (more information on the insert).

For more information or to receive an electronic copy of the Volunteer Resource Application contact Browder 646-894-0247 or


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