An Overlooked Resource: School Assistance and Volunteer Service Leave

Posted: August 10, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: August 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

By Ethan Vaughan

Jennifer Jakeman, training and human resources coordinator in the Office of Housing and Residence Life, is one of many university employees who have taken advantage of Mason’s School Assistance and Volunteer Service Leave.

“I was able to assist a local school in preparing for the upcoming academic year and not have them incur a payroll cost,” says Jakeman.

At the same time, Jakeman did not have to give up her weekend or time from her summer vacation. Instead, she was getting paid.

The School Assistance and Volunteer Service Leave provides classified staff and administrative and professional faculty members with up to 16 hours of paid leave to do work in the community. The leave is pro-rated for part-time employees. For volunteer firefighters, up to 24 hours of leave may be taken.

“What’s great is that it provides 16 hours of leave, which can be used in different ways,” says Janet Walker, work/life and communications coordinator for Human Resources and Payroll.

“There’s the school assistance piece — volunteering within a public school system, preschool through high school — and then there’s the volunteer assistance piece, whether it’s doing Meals on Wheels, donating blood or doing some other type of service for the community,” Walker explains. “It’s also possible for people to use the leave to meet with their child’s teacher or attend a public or private school function in which their child is participating.”

Walker says the leave is a resource that many overlook.

“Often, people find a way to incorporate volunteering into their off-work time,” she says. “People get busy at work. I think sometimes people forget they have it.”

Walker points to the large number of events on campus, from Patriot Pack Out to frequent blood drives, which provide a quick and convenient way to use service leave.

Beyond helping the community, Walker believes that the program can help Mason families.

“If you want to go to a recital or be a chaperone for a field trip, you can do that, with your supervisor’s approval,” she says. “Classified personnel and administrative and professional faculty members have a certain number of personal leave hours, so this adds a little extra.”

Walker notes that administrative and faculty members didn’t always have this benefit. “Mason expanded it to include them.”

Jakeman praised Mason for taking the initiative to encourage community involvement.

“There are no bad aspects to this program, and it should be utilized by all of our faculty and staff,” she says. “It’s just beneficial for everyone involved. It is hard with the current economy to take that time off of work to volunteer. George Mason University understands this need, and not only promotes it but funds it.”

Walker says that taking service leave epitomizes what it means to be a Patriot.

“One of the hallmarks of a career at Mason is making a difference,” she says. “School Assistance and Volunteer Service Leave provides a means to help do that.”

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu