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Gov. Gary Herbert announces new tool to bring 20,200 volunteers to schools

Published: Tuesday, July 31 2012 5:54 p.m. MDT

NORTH SALT LAKE — Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday a new online tool that officials hope will bring 20,200 volunteers to schools by 2020.

An online portal, developed at Salt Lake Community College and accessed through the Prosperity 2020 website, has been created to register participating businesses willing to match volunteers with schools, according to Prosperity 2020 Chairman Mark Bouchard.

"This is a way of us giving back as a business community," Bouchard said. "Educators are going to tell us what their greatest needs are in communities and the business community is going to fill those needs through this tool."

Prosperity 2020 is a statewide initiative to increase post-secondary education in the state. Officials have set the goal of having two-thirds of Utah's adult population earning a college degree or certificate by 2020.

Herbert, who made the announcement while visiting students at Foxboro Elementary School, said the Business Promise portal will provide volunteers to help children learn reading and math, which the governor called the "gateway to learning."

"How we're going to help get that done is getting more people to volunteer in schools," Herbert said. "All of us working together can help to raise the bar when it comes to education excellence and we can do it without having to spend a lot of money."

The Utah PTA tracks volunteer hours each year, but PTA President Gaileen Rogers said the numbers are usually lower than reality.

"Volunteers are really bad at saying they've volunteered," she said. "We know that there's more hours."

For the 2011-12 academic year, the organization documented 231,481 volunteer hours in Utah schools. Rogers did not have specific numbers on how many individuals had volunteered but said that in her conversations with the partners of Prosperity 2020, it was estimated that an additional 20 volunteers per school per month would be needed to reach the 20,200-volunteer goal.

"That puts about five more volunteers a week in our schools," she said.

Rogers credited the men and women who give their time in schools for much of the success of Utah students. "Because of the volunteerism in our state, our students achieve more with less financial support than many other states," Rogers said.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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