Volunteer Voice

"The biggest success I have had so far is simply getting to know the students. I feel that a lot of the time, it is easy to focus on numbers, rather than the individuals being helped."

Because Thanksgiving is upon us, we'd like to give thanks to the thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time and passion to Adult Basic Education students all over the state. 

After retiring from an active career in the business world, Monica St. Germain found herself taking a suggestion from her husband and toured Learning In Style, an ESL program on 22nd and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. After her tour, Monica began volunteering one morning and one afternoon a week. Quickly, after seeing that the need of the learners and school was so great, she began coming in three mornings and one afternoon.

What do you think of when you see the word volunteer? Do you think of a nice, retiree who now has some spare time on her hands? Do you think of a busy college student trying to fit in some extra service-learning hours? Or maybe you thought of a busy professional who is trying to make a difference in the world. But, did you think of a former student?

After her move from Rochester to Brooklyn Park in 2012, Kate Reinicke started her job hunt. As many of us know, finding a job isn’t always a walk in the park. To fill the void, Kate decided that volunteering would be a good use of her time and skills. After logging into Volunteer Match and finding an Adult Basic Education posting, Kate found herself at Metro North ABE- Brooklyn Center Community Corner.

The following is a story selected from Journeys: An Anthology of Student Writing. The authors of Journeys are adult literacy students enrolled in ESL, GED, and basic skills classes across the state. They highlight their personal ups and downs; their very own journey. These stories bring us one step closer to the realization that humanity is a shared experience. In light of recent events in the United States and around the world, I hope this story touches you, the reader, as it touched me.

Many say that volunteers can be any age. Whether it’s a child volunteering to pass papers out in their classroom; a college student working on their service-learning project; or someone like Joyce Philipson, who now at age 80 continues to volunteer in different capacities at Adult Academic Program in Golden Valley. 

“In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.” — Omid Safi, "The Disease of Being Busy"

In celebration of National Volunteer Week, we want to take this opportunity to say thanks to each volunteer for your great service and for supporting the students at our learning centers. 

We were reminded of the spirit that can be seen in so many of the students and volunteers in an interview with David Brooks, who said,


Last year more than 3,000 volunteers contributed 207,000 hours to Adult Basic Education programs througout the state proving that volunteers are an integral part of what we do.

In light of those numbers and in honor of National Volunteer Week (April  12-18) we decided to ask local Adult Basic Education program staff and teachers a question: What do volunteers mean to you?

Here are their answers:


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