I’m Jeana, PSU Class of 2012. I graduated with a BA in Applied Linguistics after taking Zapoura’sEnhancing Youth Literacy capstone. Almost two years later, I have to tell you that I refer to my capstone volunteer experience and classroom discussions in every one of the graduate classes I’m taking now in my master of library science program.
I started my MLS a scant eight weeks after my undergrad commencement. When I get that master’s hood in August, I’ll have been in school part time and working full time for five years. (I’d been to two other universities before I finished my bachelor’s degree at PSU; it only took me 30 years!)
Needless to say, I’m a little tired right about now.
BUT! Volunteering keeps me focused on why I grind through the deadlines, research, reading, and writing that goes into getting a master’s degree. I do it because literacy—particularly early childhood literacy—is an amazing thing. Right now I volunteer for Multnomah County Library on Saturdays at the Belmont branch, and every other Sunday at the Gregory Heights branch.
Saturday mornings are the best part of my week. At Belmont, I help out with family story time (good for all ages up to about 6 years old) and “tiny tots,” which is for children ages 1 to 2 years old. Watching a child acquire language is a fascinating and awe-inspiring process. I’ve been volunteering at Belmont since 2010, so I’ve been able to observe some of the children since before they have any words at all until they’re chatting nearly nonstop! Belmont is also my neighborhood library branch; it makes me feel more connected to my community when I run into kids from story time while I’m out walking my dogs or running errands.
On Sundays, I co-facilitate Talk Time, which gives non-native English speakers a low-key, casual environment in which to practice their conversational English. The Gregory Heights participants have all been adults, although any age can join in. In the eight months that I’ve been volunteering for Talk Time, I’ve met people from Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Japan, China, Mexico, and Somalia. I also have a new appreciation for the complexity and richness of English. How would you explain what a phrase like “cut and dried” means? Or the difference between “vindicate” and “vindictive”?
Staying connected to community through volunteering has been easy, because I found something I care about deeply, and focused (initially, at least) on helping out in my own neighborhood. Right now it works for me to have a regular commitment to volunteer on a weekly basis. That may change after I finish my master’s degree, but volunteering is such an integral part of my life now I can’t imagine giving it up.
Congratulations on your imminent graduation!