Volunteers: The Backbone of SRNS Education Outreach

Staff Report

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

Since 2008, the success and reach of the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) education outreach programs have relied on the support of volunteers. One mother-daughter duo continues to go above and beyond to provide valuable support to educational initiatives that impact the community.

LeAnne Barkley, SRNS Senior Program Planner for Environmental Compliance and Area Completion Projects, has supported education outreach for over twenty years. Her daughter, Victoria “Tori” Shekastehband, SRNS National Nuclear Security Administration Capital Projects Senior Operations Support Specialist, began attending outreach events with her mother as a little girl.

“I first exposed Tori to SRNS volunteering when she was in elementary school,” said Barkley. “After years of attending those events with me, Tori found her own passion for volunteering. It has been remarkable to watch her grow from a volunteer into a full-time role at the Site.”

Victoria Shekastehband draws scholarship winners while volunteering at the 2012 CSRA College Night at James Brown Area, Augusta, Georgia.

Victoria Shekastehband participating in the 2015 Science Education Enrichment Day (S.E.E.D) at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center.

Tori was a student at University of South Carolina Aiken when she became a full-time intern at SRNS. In 2020, she accepted a job involving the termination of the MOX project and later transitioned to her current role at the new Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility. She now volunteers her free time with Savannah River Site’s (SRS) United Way of Aiken County Campaign, Celebrity Waiter Night Children’s Place Campaign and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) College Night as the layout coordinator and point of contact for the attending colleges.

“I never intended to follow in my mom’s footsteps but when I was given the opportunity to move into a full-service role at the Site I had to jump on the opportunity,” said Shekastehband. “By volunteering I get to collaborate with so many different employees, colleges and students. It is a totally different role than what I do in my day-to-day job at SRS.”

SRNS has impacted more than 507,300 students and teachers across eight counties. From 2021 to 2022, over 420 Site employees have volunteered their time to share science technology engineering and math (STEM)-related programs with local students and educators.

SRNS Education Outreach Lead Kim Mitchell sees major potential in teaching younger generations about our sitewide operations. “LeAnne and Tori are the perfect example of how we grow our future leaders from the start,” said Mitchell. “Creating that interest early on can change the whole trajectory of a child’s life. Tori learned a lot about the Site when she was just a little girl and is now a full-time employee supporting our mission.”

There is a continued need for volunteers to mentor, teach and provide valuable insight to future job candidates. Education outreach programs include: CSRA College Night, DOE Savannah River Regional Science Bowl, Innovative Teaching Mini-Grants Program, Future City Competition, CSRA Regional Science and Engineering Fair, Science & Technology Enrichment Program and Traveling Science Demonstration Program.

“Don’t be scared to get out there and do this type of work,” said Barkley. “There are numerous ways to volunteer, and it does not require a large commitment of time. I always learn something new that I can apply in my life or job, and I cannot thank education outreach enough for the opportunity.”

Mitchell sees future opportunity and advancements in education outreach. “When you volunteer your time and expertise, it broadens your knowledge and understanding of the Site. Many of our frequent and dedicated volunteers move into positions of increasing responsibility because they are recognized as leaders both at SRS and in the community.

To learn more about education outreach programs, visit: https://www.srs.gov/general/outreach/edoutrch/index.htm.