Thank you to all the volunteers who entered the 2014 Volunteer Story Contest during National Volunteer Week! Your stories of dedication, humor and the power of learning are at the heart of our work at the Minnesota Literacy Council.
This summer has been an amazing volunteer experience. In my position as Volunteer Outreach Intern at the Literacy Council, I worked mainly with recruitment, tabling at events and managing social media. Working with so many dedicated individuals and community organizations was a real pleasure, and I gained insight into the great system of educators in the Twin Cities area. As part of my internship, I had the privilege of visiting some of the centers in our volunteer community.
There was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and we wrote a letter. We didn't write, at first. At first, we talked with shock and horror, trying to process and share what we knew. A difficult struggle, to express deep emotions with surface level words in a common language which is uncommonly challenging. But we did it. We knit together our heartbreak and sorrow with bits and pieces of the language we share. We grieved together in fragmented English and full understanding of one another's pain.
In honor of National Volunteer Week this month, we would like to recognize Mandy Cardinal, a very special literacy volunteer from our Open Door Learning Center - Northeast. Since Mandy Cardinal began volunteering at Northeast in August, she has been admired for her dedication, creativity, and sense of humor as a volunteer ESL teacher.
Our April Literacy Open Door Learning Center - North Side Leader, Cletus Maychrzak, is well-known to every student at the learning center. In the two years since Cletus started volunteering at North Side, he has worked in almost every class. His popularity and the deep impact he has made on his students, however, might be better explained by Cletus' passion for teaching and his enthusiasm in the classroom. When a student who attended Cletus' Science GED class over a year ago was asked, "When you think of science, what do you think of?" She responded, "I think of Cletus' laugh."
Every week for four days a week, Chris Montgomery arrives at the Open Door Learning Center - Rondo an hour early to work one-on-one with students before class begins. Then he assists in the set-up of his classroom and proceeds to spend the rest of the day co-teaching GED, monitoring practice tests, tutoring small groups, and mentoring students. A leader to all in his indefatigable energy and drive to support both his students and learning center, Chris has earned the distinction of being our March Literacy Leader.
We would like to congratulate Mary Gilbertson of Open Door Learning Center - Arlington Hills as our February Literacy Leader! Mary started volunteering as a teacher at Arlington Hills in October of 2012. However, she first began her work with ESL students early on in her career as a teacher in the ESL program at Highland Junior and Senior High in St. Paul. Mary appreciated these students' tenacity in the classroom and their eagerness to learn. "Looking back at that time," she says, "I believe I learned more from them than they learned from me." Inspired by her students at Highland, Mary decided to continue her work with ESL by becoming a Minnesota Literacy Council volunteer.
For over a year, Kathy O’Connor has worked as classroom assistant in Mary Pat Davini’s Computer Basics class at Goodwill Easter Seals. According to Mary Pat, however, Kathy is more than just a dedicated volunteer: “I can't stress enough how important this volunteer is to our Computer class at Goodwill!” Mary Pat says of her assistant. “If it weren't for Kathy O'Connor, simply said, it would not be possible for hundreds of adults to be successful in literacy and computer skills.” For going above and beyond in in supporting learners and staff alike at Goodwill East Seals, we would like to honor Kathy O’Conner as December’s Literacy Leader!
Three years ago, Corrine Mady stopped by the Adult Academic Program of Robbinsdale Area Schools and looked in on a classroom of ESL students. As she stood in the door and observed the students, Corrine knew instantly that this was where she wanted to volunteer. After countless hours of volunteering since that fateful day, Corrine has earned both the Literacy Council’s 2012 Outstanding Volunteer- Honorable Mention award and the honor of being November’s Literacy Leader.