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'Unsung Heroine' finally receives recognition

Date: 4/21/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Barbara Trant, volunteer coordinator for the Volunteers in Public Schools of Westfield (VIPS), isn't in it for the money, which is minimal, or the accolades, which are few; she's committed to the betterment of the school system.

Trant will be the only Westfield resident recognized as a 2009 Unsung Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the States of Women (MCSW) at its May 13 ceremony at the State House in Boston.

"Our Unsung Heroines are women who don't make the news, but make the difference," Kira Dunn, executive director of the MCSW, said. "They are women who use their time and talent to show you the meaning of the saying, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'"

Trant is one of 100 Unsung Heroines chosen from a pool of over 400 nominated for the accolade.

Dr. Joseph Dupelle, administrator of Special Education and Student Support for Westfield Public Schools, said he nominated Trant because of her humility and dedication to her work.

"I see Barbara, who goes above and beyond, and I don't think that people know that she does," he explained. "She is not someone [who's] blowing her own horn.

"She has over 1,000 volunteers that have served over 10,000 hours under her direction," Dupelle continued. "When I typed up [her nomination] letter, I have over three pages of what this woman has done [in the community]."

He noted that in addition to establishing VIPS, Trant has also served as a member of the Westfield Arts Council, Westfield on Weekends, Friends of the Forum House, Westfield Helps Its Public Schools and more.

"I don't ever stop to think about [all the work I do in the community]," Trant said. "I don't feel like an unsung hero. I just have a job to do and I do it."

She added that she feels "honored" and "surprised" to be receiving this recognition.

"I had no idea [Dupelle] was nominating me," Trant explained.

She noted that VIPS is celebrating its 15th year in the Westfield Public School System. Trant explained that she established the program at a time similar to the current economic crisis, when volunteers were needed to supplement personnel shortfalls due to budget deficits.

"It isn't always easy," she said of the program. "There's resistance sometimes; some teachers like volunteers and others don't. We're just really here to listen to what the school system needs and try to provide that."

Trant added that despite the uncertainty that VIPS will survive within the next fiscal budget because of financial constraints, she's moving ahead with projects and volunteer support for all those in need of their efforts.