by Dianna Kall
“I chose to start volunteering because I have been blessed with a great family and health throughout my entire life and that is not the same for all people,” said Michael Cannavino, a west-side Clevelander, as he began explaining why he has added volunteering to his already packed schedule.
Cannavino, a full-time dispatcher with Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department, has completed his bachelor’s degree in communications from Cleveland State University and is currently enrolled at Kent State University, pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration.
“As my educational career changed I realized how important a solid education is, but more so, my comfort in the classroom. That’s when I realized I wanted to tutor or mentor children and give them positive educational experiences,” Cannavino elaborated.
He credits his involvement to his wife. She supported his decision and is enthused when listening to his experiences.
Cannavino started to research volunteer opportunities in Cleveland. He turned to the internet and discovered Greater Cleveland Volunteers. He knew of the agency from a friend, started following them on social media, and then learned about The My Mentor My Friend program.
He contacted the agency and scheduled an interview.
The My Mentor My Friend program provides an adult mentor for one 4th to 6th grade student at lunchtime during the school year in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). The mentor and mentee talk, play games, create crafts, work on puzzles, read and eat lunch. Because this is required only one day during the week, Cannavino is able to accommodate.
Carol Hasek, the My Mentor My Friend program coordinator with Greater Cleveland Volunteers, smiles when she describes her interview with Cannavino. “Mike’s interest in kids and a caring heart were the first things I noticed when we met. His belief in each child’s potential is clear in his strong commitment to mentoring.”
Cannavino is one of 13 mentors spending a weekly lunchtime at CMSD’s Willson Elementary School. The program has a total of thirty-five mentors in four District elementary schools. All are anxious to reconnect with their students this year. Unfortunately, there are many students on the waiting list every year and the need to recruit continues.
“Mike and other mentors often do our recruiting. They talk to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people at their churches and in the community to explain the need and the ease in which mentoring is conducted.” Hasek details.
Cannavino often wonders if his visits are enjoyed by his student. They are. He was approached only a few weeks after he started by the student’s teacher indicating in the last parent – teacher conference the child’s mother raved about the change in her child with social skills, school work and his talks with Cannavino at lunch. Cannavino holds that memory every time he shows up.
He can’t wait for the school year to begin and get back to the lunchtime mentoring. He enjoys the sessions with his mentee and Cannavino admits that his full-time job as a police dispatcher can be both high energy and stressful. He’s found that his volunteer efforts add a calming and fulfilling aspect to his life. “I chose the mentoring program because my passion is with helping children. With the uniqueness of my job schedule and college studies, I am able to accommodate the commitment- it’s a perfect fit.”
For this mentoring and other volunteering opportunities in Cuyahoga County, contact Greater Cleveland Volunteers 216-391-9500, greaterclevelandvolunteers.org