Volunteer Voice

As a literacy volunteer, you are part of a dedicated, compassionate and creative community that is 3,655 strong. These are your stories.

Have a story of your own you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it! Simply fill out this form to share your voice, and we’ll highlight your experience in our monthly e-newsletter for adult literacy volunteers and here in the Volunteer Voice blog.

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:

We all have our individual passions. Something we care wholeheartedly about. Maybe your passion developed through a class you took. Maybe you’ve seen the need for certain changes. Or maybe, your passion steams directly from firsthand experience. For Peter Zambrano, an Intermediate ESL teacher at the English Learning Center, it’s the latter.

There are some people in this world who love volunteering. They love their community. They love the feelings of giving back. They love feeling like they can make a difference. Jenna Yeakle is most definitely one of those people.

A lot has happened in the last 13 years; 9/11, the election of  two different presidents, the iPhone, Oprah retires, internet cat sensations and much, much more. During all of this, Amy Sitze has been volunteering with Minneapolis Adult Education- South Campus. In fact, Amy started volunteering in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11. She says that in an environment of mistrust, it felt good to [begin] meeting, caring about, and helping people from different countries and faiths.

When walking through the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis you’ll see groups of children playing in surrounding parks and adults walking to the nearest corner store. You’ll hear the noises of cars and trucks passing through on their way to Interstate 94. What you may not see or hear are the students and volunteers of Centro Guadalupano.

Written by Mela Shah, Volunteer Program Assistant and Hotline Referral Specialist




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