Kristi Chester Vance says a warm smile and hello can go a long way.
She’s a member of a group of volunteers called Project Connect , which has a mission that’s clearly stated in its title.
“Project Connect focuses on the really simple notion that just a hello, a wave and opening the door for somebody can really make all the difference in a student’s day,” said Chester Vance, co-founder and coordinator of Project Connect.
Volunteers have different shifts where they go to Bozeman High School three times a day to greet students as they enter and leave the building.
“We come in the morning when the kids get dropped off. We come over lunch. And then we come at the end of the school day just to hold the doors for the kids or say hello,” said Chester Vance.
Project Connect’s volunteer efforts have been operating largely out of Bozeman High School, but they soon hope to extend their reach into elementary schools, middle schools and the new high school once it opens.
“It’s about connection which is in the name. Being a positive steady presence for all of the students in the high school and for the staff as well,” said JP Carlson, a parent and volunteer with Project Connect.
The program began in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 students were killed.
Volunteers at Project Connect are committed to fostering a positive school environment where every student feels acknowledged.
“I think for the students it’s knowing that there are going to be other caring adults around them on their turf and their place of learning who are there with no other agenda but to be a positive, steady presence,” said Carlson.
Volunteers are required to pass a background check and take a training course to be part of Project Connect. The first training course this fall will be held in the Berg Library at Bozeman High School on September 5th at 5:30PM.
You can find more information about Project Connect in Bozeman at www.projectconnectmt.org