January’s volunteer of month follows long-standing family tradition
Working or volunteering at an elementary school is a long-standing family tradition for the Fort Lewis Volunteer of the Month for January – Nidian Coggins. Coggins and her spouse of eight years, Sgt. Lhonny Coggins, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, have two children -– a daughter Nija, 7, and a son, Lhonny, 4.
“Most of my family members were teachers, teacher assistants or worked in the computer resource room and I just want to continue that tradition for my children,” said Coggins, volunteer at Greenwood Elementary School. “I remember how excited I got whenever I saw my mother or my aunt at school. My daughter gets excited to see me at school, too. She even asks me to come here, but I mostly volunteer as often as I’m needed.”
Volunteering at the school has a few other benefits as well, she said. “I want to know what’s going on and how things are being done,” Coggins said. “By volunteering, I can see what’s being done, be part of it and stay more involved in my children’s lives. I think it makes my daughter take her studies more seriously, too.”
Sometimes Coggins spends the whole day there helping students finish up tests or helping out with preparations for a school assembly. Although Coggins grew up learning how to read, write and speak English and Spanish, she doesn’t have much opportunity to use that skill in her volunteer work. Instead, she uses her dual language skills more frequently when new people move into her neighborhood.
One of Coggins’ most rewarding volunteer experiences was when she constructed a stage tree and an ax for a George Washington assembly. That project was special because it was so much fun watching the students chop the tree down, she said.
“Nidian brings a lot of persistence and determination to her volunteer work,” said Kati Seiber, president of the school’s parent-teacher organization. “She doesn’t give up or back down. If she sees a need, she doesn’t wait for somebody else to take care of it. She will do it herself or make sure that it gets done.”
During a recent cookie fundraiser for the PTO when a problem arose with the orders not matching up, Seiber said Coggins took it upon herself to recalculate every order until she got them all to match up perfectly. “She stayed up all night to do that,” Seiber said. “That’s the kind of work ethic she has with everything she does. If she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it right.”
In addition to her volunteer work at school, Coggins volunteers for Girl Scouts and works in the nursery at her church. After her daughter’s Brownie troop merged with another one, Coggins said she stepped down as co-leader and now assists the leaders on an as-needed basis, with projects like booth cookie sales.
“I really enjoy the special occasions that come up in my daughter’s Brownie troop because it gives me and my daughter more quality time together,” she said. “It’s a memory ... we’re making memories.”
If anyone has enough free time to become a volunteer, it never hurts to ask if any help is needed, Coggins said. “When I first started to volunteer, it was a little worrisome for me because I wanted everything to go just right and I thought I might mess up,” she said. “Now that I have a little experience, I got even more involved this year. I don’t worry so much anymore, and I’m really glad I decided to volunteer.”
Barbara L. Sellers: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Barbara L. Sellers, Northwest Guardian