This feature is about parent Shalene France Gray and is a monthly column by USNA to encourage volunteers.
By Melissa Flatt, USNA volunteer coordinator
Last year, I was asked by our illustrious University School of Nashville Association if I would consider being the step-up volunteer coordinator. As the name implies, that is a two-year commitment, with the second year being the volunteer coordinator. It's my second year. Don't get me wrong, it's cool to have a title, but what I really do are two main things: 1. If you say you'd like to get involved at USN, I help you connect with the right person and place (as I said, cool job, but even better, wait for it…), and 2. I get to interview really awesome people who volunteer at USN and share their stories with you. All that said, here's the next installment of this year’s column I like to call “I didn’t realize."
And so we find ourselves here at the end of another school year. Seniors wore their caps and gowns. A fresh batch of kindergartners eagerly awaits the smell of new crayons and the crinkle and zip of those clean backpacks that will come with August. Me? I'm looking forward to a few lazy days of lounging with a book in the summer sun. A girl can dream. With all of those things in the works, I am so very, very happy to take this time to introduce you to your new USNA Volunteer Coordinator Shalene France Gray.
You have probably seen Shalene around the hallways. She and husband Jason have two amazing children, Zazou ’28 and Octavia '32. Shalene has been an active participant at USN for the past four years since Zazou started here. She has been a room parent and helped with Artclectic, Grandparents and Special Friends' Day, and Field Day. Shalene was the step-up and then the co-chair for Popclectic for two years. She hosts Evening Classes (Comfort Food for Vegans, Brunch for Vegans). And, as advertised, she is the new Volunteer Coordinator. Obviously, these activities would seem to indicate that Shalene is a full-time volunteer. But, no — she also runs her company, Esoteric Vegan, hosts monthly dinner events, and is an engagement specialist for Digital Detangler (focusing on mindfulness for technology). Added to that, Shalene is an unpaid family taxi driver, cook, and Zazou’s unofficial manager.
Melissa: Shalene, some might notice that you are beyond busy. Why do you make an effort to volunteer at USN?
Shalene: I like being present and being around the school. I love to see the day to day operations and what my children are experiencing. It helps me to have a better understanding of their world. I like being involved and being a part of things. Volunteering makes me feel like I am part of a greater community.
Melissa: What, if anything, would you like to see change?
Shalene: It would be great to see more people involved because it helps you have a better understanding of all the resources available at the school to the kids—and the parents. I’d love for parents to get to know each other better, to see and be seen.
Melissa: Would you volunteer again? Why?
Shalene: Obviously, the answer is, "Yes! Of course!" I don't think I will ever not be involved in USNA in some capacity. It's rewarding, and I’ve had new friendships come from those opportunities. At some point, my children won’t want me around so much, and this is a way to stay a steady presence. I want to be here to support them.
Shalene, we will always want you around USN. Thank you for doing all that you do, and for continuing to do all that you will do in the future. Here’s to a fabulous year as Volunteer Coordinator and everything else that you do. Tag, you’re it.