Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?
I’m originally from Grant, a small farming community north of Grand Rapids, but GR has been home for almost a decade. I work in marketing and advertising.
What drew you to the mission of the Literacy Center?
Libby Crabb Wahlstrom [Literacy Center Development Director] was the first person to introduce me to the Literacy Center. We are close friends, and when she told me about the organization, I was floored. I spent a month in Rome during college, and I know how hard that was to navigate. I can’t imagine not being able to read while still performing a job or navigating a city. I also loved that the Literacy Center serves adult learners. Don’t get me wrong, kids are important, but there are so few programs for adults.
Tell me about your learner. How long have you been tutoring?
I’ve been tutoring for a couple of years and am currently in between learners. My first was a native speaker, born and raised in Kentwood. She helped me see how easy it is to fall through the cracks, and was such an inspiration for me. She had six children, but still made her learning a priority. My second learner was from Korea, and she was such a lovely woman. She came here with her husband and infant daughter so her husband could go to school. She was incredibly intelligent, and I loved her drive to pick up English and be able to make some new friends in the area.
Any great stories from your experience that you’d like to share?
My first learner and I went to the Olive Garden to celebrate Christmas. She had never been, and had always wanted to go. It was such a great way to connect personally while having her use her new skills in a practical way. The personal connection is my favorite part-- we’re all really not that different, once you take the time to get to know someone. There is usually always common ground.
My second learner, knowing my love of food and new cultures, brought me a bag of Korean treats last Christmas. It was amazing! We snuck some in the library (shh, don’t tell!), and she told me about each item, why she loved it and its personal significance.
Why is this worthwhile to you personally?
I recognize that I’ve had access to privilege-- where I was born, my parents being supportive, my access to quality education and support-- and I believe it’s vitally important to do what I can to level that playing field for others.
What would you say to someone who is considering tutoring?
It’s not as scary as it sounds! I’m no teacher and never had any desire to be - but the way you can connect on a personal level makes all the difference.
Are you interested in being a Literacy Center tutor? Learn more at a volunteer orientation. Sign up online or by calling (616) 459-5151. If you're a current tutor looking for additional resources, contact your Literacy Coordinator.