School mornings are organized yet busy at the Nichols house.
The kids must be dressed, hair must be combed, and snacks must be packed. After Josephine is dropped off at her abuela’s, the other kids head to school for a day of learning. Their father, Joshua Nichols, meanwhile, prepares for a busy day at work while also carving out time to be a volunteer at his children’s school.
Nichols might be busy arranging a breakfast or lunch delivery for campus staff. Or he might be working to secure a bouncy house or concessions for an upcoming school-sponsored event. Whatever the need at Lewis Elementary School may be, the campus has come to count on Nichols as a committed volunteer.
As Spring ISD celebrates Parent Involvement Month, the district is sharing the stories of some of the volunteers who help make its schools and students successful.
“Volunteering is one of the most selfless acts any of us can undertake, and that’s why our parent volunteers mean so much to us and to our Spring ISD students,” Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa said. “There is no monetary incentive, the work can be exhausting, and your contribution can sometimes go unrecognized, but the rewards – and the impact you have – can be huge.”
Not long after the birth of their youngest child, Nichols lost his wife, Amber, to COVID, and now has his hands full raising his four youngest kids on his own and carrying on her legacy. He credits his wife with instilling in him the benefits of giving back and being an active presence in the education of their children.
When his older daughter was at Claughton Middle School Nichols was affectionately known as “Gisele’s dad” by the students. Back then, both he and his wife could frequently be seen working as active members of the PTO or supporting the athletic department. Now that he is a frequent visitor in the halls of Lewis Elementary, Nichols has been rechristened as “Jena’s dad.” Jenavieve, Jeno, and Juliete break into smiles and energetic hand-waving when they see him in the halls, and other students, staff, and Lewis administrators also treat him like a regular and welcome presence on the campus.
“He’s like a son to me”, said Lewis Principal Grace Leal, although when the principal first came to Lewis in 2015, Nichols was considering taking his children elsewhere, in part due to frequent staff turnover at the struggling campus.
At the time, Leal asked that he give her a chance to turn the school around, and he agreed – then went on to pitch in as a volunteer and help get the whole community on board. Now, together, they both celebrate the school’s “A” rating from the TEA.
Staff members have lauded Nichols for his many hours of volunteering on campus and for his personal generosity when the school is in need. Nichols says that he does what he does to support the staff so that they can do what they do for the kids.
“If I can help a few of them, I will,” Nichols said. “I said I’d make a difference on this earth.”
And Nichols isn’t the only “dad on duty” making a difference in Spring ISD schools.
Major Elementary School Principal Kenisha Williams said she had also found a gem of a parent on her campus. When a call went out for parents to step up as volunteers, a dedicated group answered, including Effran Bryant.
Bryant recalls that, while attending a meeting at the school, he heard that there were not enough men involved on campus. This did not sit well with him as he, himself, had both his parents’ support and presence at school from around age five all the way up through college. So when the call was made for more parents to step up at Major – particularly the dads – he answered and joined the school’s PTO.
Bryant said that his dad, a former teacher, and his mom were always involved with his endeavors growing up, and he knew it was time for him to do the same for his daughter, Avayah, as she started kindergarten.
Bryant’s dedication has even inspired his father, Avayah’s grandfather, to once again put on his volunteering hat and pitch in to support the students and staff at Major.
“Children will be what we allow them to be,” the senior Mr. Bryant said, “and we must support them so that they go down the right path.”
As the PTO President, Bryant has made it his mission to “do what we need for the students and have some fun while we’re doing it.” With that mindset, the scholars at Major Elementary will reap the benefits and, as campus and district leaders hope, draw even more parents into service as volunteers.
“These are just two great examples of the many shining star parent volunteers working every day in Spring ISD schools,” said Tranita Carroll, the district’s executive director of family and community engagement. “They encourage others and reap the benefits of giving back to our scholars. We appreciate all that our parents do for our schools and students, and encourage parents to be actively engaged in their children’s schools.”
Parents and guardians are encouraged to register to volunteer by visiting www.springisd.org and clicking Volunteer Opportunities under the Community tab.