I have had the unique opportunity to work with some wonderful and inspirational people from over 20 organizations in Santa Fe over the last 10 months. However, I do not get to spend a lot of time with the volunteers or the youth they serve. My primary role is supporting the programs and staff that support youth in our community. One of the ways that I have been doing this was by laying the groundwork to provide trainings and workshops for both program staff and volunteers that are a part of mentoring and tutoring programs. I spoke with 19 volunteer coordinators and other staff about what they thought was most needed. I asked them to think about conversations they had with volunteers about things they needed and any frustrations they may have had while working with youth. I then ascertained the top needs for training/workshops that were common across organizations and have been reaching out to local experts who were recommended to me by colleagues. I have had the pleasure of conversing with the men and women who are considered experts in their field and who are an integral part in offering workshops in areas such as child/adolescent development, behavior, and learning issues as well as in racial equity and implicit bias. Not only have I been speaking with these fabulous people, but I am in the process of working with them to design and provide workshops in fall 2017.
I had been working with these staff and experts, yet I still felt disconnected to the volunteers and the youth. It was not until today when I went to Adelante’s Volunteer Brunch that I began to feel connected to not only the organization, but to the volunteers. I sat with two volunteers who are nurses who volunteer their free time at Santa Fe Public Schools tutoring children in literacy. They expressed concern about the steep learning curve from nursing to education, and without much teaching experience, they also felt a little lost.
I asked them what kinds of guidance or training would be helpful to aide them in working with their students. Much to my delight they described their experience working with kids who would not be considered ‘the perfect student’, the students who having learning or attention problems and are not the easiest to work with. This sounds like a tough situation, so why do I feel delighted you wonder? Well, one of the workshops I am excited to offer in the fall focuses on just that — working with students who have learning challenges and how to meet them where they are, engage them, and of most importantly, strategies for working with students as reading or math tutors. The volunteers were asking for exactly what I was hoping to give them! I went into our conversation hoping to learn more about what Adelante’s volunteer tutors were doing with their kids, but I came away with so much more; I learned about what they wanted and how I could support them, fulfilling my role as an AmeriCorps VISTA and feeling validated and even more excited to be doing my work.
Molly Timmins is an AmeriCorps VISTA working with SFB2C with focus on mentoring and tutoring. Stay tuned to eNews for further information on the fall volunteer training session on how volunteer tutors can best engage students.