Stephen Osborn understands the challenges of navigating a new country. Born in remote South America to missionary parents, Stephen did not live in the United States until he was 16. As he wrote in his original Literacy Center volunteer application in 2015, that experience gave him “a special place in my heart for people learning English.”
Stephen was not new to tutoring English language learners or to volunteer work when he began with the Literacy Center seven years ago. He and his wife spent almost two decades hosting exchange students in their home and helping them learn English. Since retiring from his career in IT, Stephen has also volunteered with the Hispanic Center and with foreign students at Calvin University.
For the past five years, Stephen has worked alongside Miriam, a learner from Mexico, as she improves her English for her job. Miriam works in a restaurant where she has quickly risen through the ranks with Stephen’s support. He writes with pride, “Miriam was recognized by the company where she works for creating a special salsa for the dishes on the menu—Miriam’s salsa! Miriam has done a very good job where she works, and the management has taken notice. I am so proud of her!”
Stephen’s commitment to the Literacy Center goes far beyond the time he spends with Miriam each week. He has helped set up technology for learners, assisted with the transition to virtual instruction at the beginning of the pandemic, and continues to serve as a mentor to other tutors. Just recently he supported a fellow volunteer, Jan Staley, with setting up an online system for the Literacy Center’s tutoring library.
Jan echoes all of us when she writes, “I was so impressed by his willingness to help, patience, and humility. His generous gift of time definitely extends beyond tutoring and touches all areas of the Literacy Center. What a well-deserved honor!”