Ken Skinner, age 69, an Albany resident for 43 years, is one of two winners for volunteerism this year.
Today, after a long career as a social worker that included 29 years as an Associate Executive Director of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, a statewide child advocacy organization in New York, Skinner has taken on a volunteer load that virtually matches a full-time commitment.
To begin, Skinner volunteers four days a week at three separate elementary schools, North Albany Academy, Thomas O’Brien Academy of Science and Technology (TOAST), and Brighter Choice Carter School for Boys. His responsibilities there include working in the classroom, primarily with kindergarten students, assisting teachers in group or individual activities. In the TOAST kindergarten, Skinner also implements the federally-funded ReDiscover program, which focuses on helping small groups of students improve reading, speaking and writing skills.
In addition to Skinner’ duties in the schools, he and his wife Margaret took particular interest in a Rwandan mother and daughter, survivors of the genocide of 1994. They met in 2004 while the child was attending TOAST and her mother St. Rose. It was Skinner’s involvement with that child that lead him to the elementary schools and the many young kids that now benefit from his attention.
In 2005, Skinner, like many, watched and become enamored with a documentary film, Mad Hot Ballroom. The movie followed 5th grade students involved in a ballroom dance program at three New York City grammar schools. The movie focused on the self-confidence and discipline that ballroom dance gave to the kids, many of whom were struggling in school. Skinner thought that a similar program could work at TOAST, and brought the idea to its principal, who liked the idea and was very supportive. However, Skinner had to develop the program’s funding on his own. He managed to get the program funded through the Albany Fund for Education, and from there it took right off. The program continues, but receives no funding from the district, and the ongoing fundraising is another task that Skinner takes on. According to him, in the three years since the program began, more than 150 4th, 5th and 6th grade students have participated in the TOAST ballroom dance program, many taking more than one set of lessons.
Skinner is also very active in the local running and fitness community. He is an avid runner, referees high school track meets and is actively involved in the Hudson Mohawk Roadrunners Club, helping coordinate its various events. He remains involved in social work, and is currently Treasurer of Trinity Institute in Albany and is Program Committee Chairman or the National Association of Social Workers. Skinner is also a board member of Living resources, an umbrella organization for several developmental disability programs.
Skinner and his wife of 45 years have three children, and four grandchildren, whom they visit often. He enjoys running, reading and has been in the same bowing league for 35 years.