04-25-12: "Mama Stout" dedicates countless hours to Emerald Ridge
04-25-12: "Mama Stout" dedicates countless hours to Emerald Ridge

Emerald Ridge choir director Kurt McKee still remembers the first time he heard his students refer to volunteer Julie Stout.

He had just been hired, and when Stout walked into the classroom, he heard student after student greet her as “Mama Stout.”

“I initially thought it was a nickname that came from some event many years earlier,” he said. “I have come to find out that she has earned that name because she cares for other students in a way that a good mom would.”

The countless hours that Stout spends helping Emerald Ridge High students and staff members have earned her this year’s Volunteer of the Year Award among schools at the junior high and high school level.

The Puyallup School Board presented her with an engraved plaque during a Volunteer of the Year recognition at the April 9 board meeting.

The level of Stout’s volunteer commitment at the high school level is “extraordinary,” said Principal Brian Lowney.

“Julie is a huge part of the ‘Jaguar Family,’” he said. “In addition to having great kids that contribute to the fabric of Emerald Ridge, Julie’s handprints can be found on nearly every positive activity and event that happens here. Her enthusiasm for kids and for Emerald Ridge is truly contagious.”

The mother of six children has been a volunteer in Puyallup schools since her family moved here from Indiana in 1999. She started helping at Emerald Ridge High when her oldest daughter, who graduated in 2008, enrolled as a sophomore.

Her active volunteer role at the school continued from the time her second oldest child attended until he graduated in 2010.

Now, two years later, she has twin girls who are in their junior year, a younger son at Ridgecrest Elementary, and another boy who will start kindergarten in September.

Stout estimates she spends at least part of every weekday, and sometimes weekends, volunteering at the high school.

She helps extensively with the school choir, of which her daughters are both members. She organizes fund-raisers, such as signing up students to wrap gifts at the mall during the holidays. She also measures girls each year for the dresses they wear in Chamber Choir and Women’s Choir and often chaperones out-of-town choir trips, including one last month to Portland.

During the recent school musical “Footloose,” Stout worked in the concession stand from 6 to 10:30 p.m. on each of the six performance nights.

As a member of the high school’s PRIDE parent organization, Stout oversees the sale of all Jag gear at school activities, including sporting events, drama performances, and ninth-grade orientation.

Stout usually wears Jag gear herself, or at least school colors, when she is on campus or at a school event.

Backstage at drama performances, Stout is usually the one helping to touch up makeup, keep students quiet, or offer them water and treats she has brought in from home.

She is also the go-to person for students in drama and choir when it’s time to order department T-shirts.

And at dances, she is the one volunteering behind the scenes checking students’ coats in and out.

“In the awkwardness of junior high and puberty, many students send the message to their parents that they don’t want them involved and, unfortunately, most parents agree and bow out of the task of volunteering in their child’s school,” McKee said.

He continued, “Julie is a gem because high school students still need adult interaction and wisdom more than ever and she chooses to stay involved.”

Eleventh grader Carina Mancini said she loves having “Mama Stout” on campus.

“She really encourages us to persevere through tough times,” Mancini said. “She wants students to do better in school, and she kids around with us and makes us laugh. She has a way of keeping us on task when we need to be.”

Stout wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I like being around with the kids and making sure that they progress — all of them,” she said. “I always try to say hi to everyone, whether I know them or not. And if I see someone do or say something they shouldn’t, I’m not afraid to correct them. It’s a fun age.”

McKee said Stout’s ability to reach all kinds of students is noteworthy.

“There will always be a segment of the student population that fi nds it diffi cult to trust and earn trust, succeed academically, find confidence in their abilities, or feel that they ‘fit in’ in a traditional school setting. Julie does wonders with these types of students.”

In addition to her volunteer role at Emerald Ridge High, Stout has served at her children’s elementary and junior high schools over the years as PTA president, fund-raising and membership chair, and talent show organizer.

For community members who have never volunteered, she encourages them to take the plunge and sign up, especially at the high school.

“You just may give a smile that will change whatever that kid is thinking,” she said. “Many just need a volunteer’s support to make their day go well.”