Linda Berner, a longtime teacher and NCCP volunteer, gets it. She knows the value of one-on-one interaction between adults and kids in North Chicago schools. “Kids are kids,” says Berner “For the most part, they are thrilled to be getting extra attention and they benefit from it.” Since 2008, thousands of individuals have volunteered in North Chicago Schools with NCCP. Berner, who connected with NCCP through St. James Lutheran Church in Lake Forest, has  served as a volunteer classroom helper in a fifth grade class and in the afterschool and academic lunch bunch program at A.J. Katzenmaier Academy. Berner, who worked for 28 years as a teacher with severely disabled children in Lake County, points to numerous challenges faced by many people who live in North Chicago. “It’s a very disadvantaged community with high unemployment. Anyone who knows this community also understands that the school district doesn’t have anywhere near the resources of many districts that are practically next door.” While Berner accepts the reality of these challenges, she recognizes and celebrates moments that show the impact volunteers can have on students. “You will see kids starting to pick up some of the things they didn’t know when they came to the program – maybe they’re counting less on their fingers or doing flash cards faster or are able to do more complex problems.” In addition to the critical difference NCCP’s support is making for students and families, Berner also notes that the group’s efforts impact schools in ways that can easily be overlooked. For example, she says that volunteers organized by NCCP make and serve monthly Staff Appreciation Luncheons for school teachers and staff, district-wide. As a former teacher, Berner says she knows how much that means for people who work in schools and, especially, in schools that are seriously under-resourced. “Maybe it would seem frivolous to some to see that we give teachers lunch. But it’s not, it’s something that makes them feel good and supported.” Support from NCCP is something that many expect in North Chicago schools now, she says. “NCCP has continued to expand and add new programs. But what really help are the relationships that the NCCP staff have with kids and their ability to keep things organized in the school. The growth of NCCP programs and the academic progress of students tell one important part of the story, but it’s more than that. There’s a more positive culture in these schools now, and more people should see that.” Meanwhile, Berner says, NCCP also “makes it easy for volunteers; when we go to a school, we know we will be supported.”