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.

Congratulations to Rick Wriskey, our January Literacy Leader and recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer-Honorable Mention award in 2012! Rick’s interest in volunteering was first sparked by his experience as an elementary school Volunteer Mentor in the Mounds View school district. “I didn’t actually hear about the need for literacy volunteers as much as I saw it firsthand,” says Rick. As a mentor, he was most struck by the fact that many of his students’ parents were reluctant to communicate with teachers or attend parent-teacher conferences due to their lack of English-language skills.

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!
As I entered the room and sat down for my first GED tutor training session, I noted that I was most likely the youngest person in the room. My fellow volunteers went around, introducing themselves, and my prediction was confirmed. I shared a table with a college grad, a recent empty nester, a young professional, and a retired school teacher. I am a college student, and I spend almost all of my days surrounded by others their early 20s. I was grateful for this opportunity to interact with a group of individuals where every generation was represented. As I later learned, for the first time in a while, all four generations are entering the work force- and volunteering- together.
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.
Congratulations to this month’s Literacy Leader, Jim Kuhl, a volunteer Citizenship tutor at the District 518 Community Education program, in Worthington. Jim recently received the Literacy Council’s 2012 Outstanding Volunteer- Honorable Mention award after being nominated by Literacy Volunteer Coordinator Justin Stevenson.
This month’s Literacy Leader Jack Harris blew me away with his eagerness and genuine passion for tutoring. Jack has made himself indispensable at the Franklin Learning Center. Charming personality besides, you’ll be hard pressed to find another volunteer who has committed more time. Jack drives in from Hopkins four times a week and stays for two or three hours every time. He has volunteered for four years now and has dedicated over 1,000 hours. Jack, nonchalant about his commitment, reflects, “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it.” Tutoring has given Jack structure to his day, which he missed after retiring from the workplace as a school psychologist...

I arrived in Minneapolis from the UK in November 2011, just as the winter was starting. It's fun to move somewhere new, but it is also disorientating, lonely and confidence-blowing. Things that you previously took for granted - operating a bank account, getting a job and driving a car - are suddenly really hard, despite a supposed common language as an English speaker (British English is really not the same language as American English!). How much harder than for immigrants of non-English speaking countries?

Congratulations to this month’s literacy leader, Norma Van Sickle! Norma began volunteering eight years ago after retiring as an English teacher at Fergus Falls High School. Norma says volunteering has impacted her because, “A person can read statistics about the number of adults who struggle with reading and writing difficulties. Volunteering has brought me literally face to face with the realities of this problem.” Norma volunteers on Monday afternoons, working with a small and diverse group of students on their reading competencies.

After studying at the International Education Center for two years, Mika Okamoto took on a new challenge: tutoring English to others. She has been volunteering for two and a half years now as a beginning ESL tutor.


I asked my teacher, "Where do I start?" His response was, "From the beginning."



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