October 7, 2016
Stories of service: from volunteer tutors to AmeriCorps members
At Reading Partners, any time that our tutors can give is valuable. This year, two of our veteran volunteers, Danica Stewart and Roslyn Parker, decided to turn their side passion into a full-time opportunity. They went from giving one hour a week as volunteers to dedicating themselves to a full year of AmeriCorps service with Reading Partners New York!
We had a chance to sit down with Roslyn and Danica for a Q and A about their pathways to service.
How did you first hear about Reading Partners?
Roslyn: My college advisor introduced me to the program when I expressed interest in working with children. After my first tutoring session at PS 40 in Queens, I was hooked – the volunteer experience was so fulfilling that I knew I had to continue.
When, where, and for how long were you a volunteer tutor?
Danica: I started volunteering in 2012 at PS 192 in Harlem. I enjoyed it so much that I returned the following school year—and then I just kept coming back each fall! I volunteered at a different site each school year. It was just so great to see the program expand into new communities, and being at different schools helped me see the larger context in which I was volunteering. I could tell that more school partners not only provided more New York City students with the help they needed in reading, but also more volunteer opportunities for people who were eager to get involved.
Can you describe the experience?
Roslyn: It was so different from other volunteer experiences I’d had. I absolutely loved what I was doing each week because I could see firsthand that my student was improving. The AmeriCorps site coordinator at my school also helped explain how I was contributing to that improvement, and to Reading Partners’ mission in general, which was really rewarding.
Why did you decide to apply for an AmeriCorps position?
Roslyn: I just felt like I had to get even more involved. I wanted to spend more time at the school and loved the idea that as an AmeriCorps member, I could not only work with students but also form relationships with teachers and school administrators.
What does doing a year of service mean to you?
Danica: It means building and expanding on the work I was doing as a volunteer. I get to help move students forward and fight the literacy gap in a new way. As a regional site coordinator, I can also still continue to serve in many different communities across the city, which I love.
Roslyn: It means becoming ingrained in a community and in other people’s lives—students, volunteers, school staff, and Reading Partners staff alike. I can be a consistent presence and have a positive impact. It feels like I have become a part of a new family.
What advice would you give current volunteer reading partners?
Danica: I would advise tutors to take the time to meet the other volunteers at their school site, and to go out of their way to meet the Reading Partners staff as well. It’s a great way to share best practices and to connect to the broader mission of the organization.
As we begin our sixth program year in New York, Danica and Roslyn’s stories remind us that volunteerism isn’t just an opportunity to give a gift to your community, but also to feel as if you’ve received a gift in return. Inspired by Danica and Roslyn? To become a volunteer, click here. To learn more about our AmeriCorps opportunities, click here. To those who already give their time to Reading Partners, thank you! And of course, thank you to Danica and Roslyn for all that you do and have done over the years to make our work possible!