Volunteer Voice

Phyllis Klapwyk volunteers three days a week with English (ESL) classes at the West ABE (Adult Basic Education) program in Big Lake, Minnesota. She also tutors students who are preparing to pass the GED math test. We asked her how she got involved and why she volunteers. Here’s her story:


Evelyn Browne began volunteering at the International Education Center (IEC) when she moved to Minneapolis several years ago. She teaches English Conversation twice a week for an hour over lunch, a time when students learn about each other’s and U.S.

Mohamed Mohamed has been volunteering at Open Door Learning Center- Lake St. for quite some time. 1,212 hours to be exact. That is equal to 50.5 days of around the clock volunteering. Mohamed was originally a student at Open Door- Lake St. but gradually started volunteering while he attended class. After enrolling in college, Mohamed wanted to stay connected to Open Door so he began volunteering in the College and Career Preparation class.

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"


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