A Spotlight on 2020-2021 Volunteers

News & Events

News

A Spotlight on 2020-2021 Volunteers

 

 

 

In honor of National Volunteer Month, we are highlighting our dedicated volunteers who help us serve community members in our youth, adult, and emergency programs. 

See the full 2020-2021 volunteer list here


Deborah Moreno Ornelas, CC'23 - Artists Reaching Out Coordinator, CI Program Committee Member

Why do you volunteer?

Because I think giving back to your community is super important. Volunteering with ARO brings me joy and I get to share that joy (and art) with others. I love working with my fellow e-board members to improve our activities and to make arts education more inclusive and accessible, as well as engaging with our community of passionate volunteers who are committed to the work that we do.

 

What does CI, and its programs, mean to you? 

Participating in CI programming has undoubtedly shaped my experience at Columbia. It has allowed me to meet other service-oriented students who want to give back to their community, whether through art or otherwise. As a coordinator, it has also given me the opportunity to explore my passion for service and realize the things I value the most in the experiences that I seek.

 

---

Clare Nimura, CC'22 - One-to-One Tutoring Coordinator

 

What does CI, and its programs, mean to you?

One of my favorite parts of running this program is witnessing the relationships that form between the tutors and their students over the course of each semester. I have been working with the same student for over 2 years now and I have gotten to work with her not only on math and reading, but also on editing a screenplay that she wrote for fun and learning about her interests and hobbies. I always look forward to our hour together each week and her enthusiasm (especially for addition problems) reignites my own love for learning and motivates me to bring that same energy to my work. I know other tutors who have had similar experiences and I am so glad that I can help foster these relationships as a coordinator. 

 

---

Divya Gandla, Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2021 - Best Buddies Volunteer

 

Why do you volunteer? 

I volunteer because of all the wonderful people I have met through Best Buddies, including our adult participants, my peers, and even the staff at our partnering assisted living facilities! Through this vibrant organization, I’ve learned to be more inclusive in our communities through friendship, spreading positive messages, and respecting the unique abilities of everyone.

How does volunteering make you feel? 

Volunteering makes me feel so energized! Especially after a long week of Zoom classes and assignments, I look forward to connecting with my Best Buddies community. Together, we (virtually) play games, engage in physical activity, reflect on our day, and watch movies.

 

---

Emily Carrero-Mustelier GS'21 - ESOL Program

 

Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer at the ESOL Program because I am an immigrant and English is my second language, just like the people we serve. Once I learned how to speak English my life in the US became so much easier and thanks to that, I found my way to success. So, helping those students learn how to communicate in English is my way to give back what I received when I moved here. 

 

---

Silas Meredith, Masters of Statistics, class of 2012 - ESOL Volunteer English teacher 

 

Why do you volunteer?

CI ESOL provides an incredible service for English learners in NYC: it's a well-structured, intensive learning program, and it's free.

How does volunteering make you feel? 

Volunteering with CI ESOL has been incredibly fulfilling for me. I feel like the program allows me to support the people I teach in a meaningful and lasting way. English skills can be the thing that helps someone get a job, navigate the healthcare system, or support their kid in school.

The program is very well run. Volunteers get to focus on the most important part: teaching and learning English. In a country where it seems like it's increasingly difficult for people to understand each other, CI ESOL helps in a very literal way to bridge that understanding gap.

 

---

Karen L Johnson - TASC Level 2 teacher

 

Why do you volunteer?

I volunteer in this program because I see myself in some of my students.  Having grown up in the NYC Foster Care System from the age of 3, I  was left alone, uneducated, poor and without resources at the age of 19. I know how hard it is to pay for food, clothing and shelter at a very young age, without any useful skill as well as without any sort of formalized assistance.  Educating myself at night after a long day of work was my only way out of poverty.  I believed then, and continue to believe, that education changes the world of the individual.  Sometimes, the only help people need is a belief in themselves.  I do not really educate as much as provide the students a forum in which to gain the confidence to believe in themselves and their potential.  As I tell my students every semester, I learn as much from them as they may learn from me. We are partners in their success. 

 

---

Mira Soni CC’21 - ESOL Volunteer

 

Why do you volunteer?

I have been volunteering with Community Impact ESOL since July 2020. CIESOL has made me reimagine my relationship to teaching and language learning, and in a time of isolation and high anxiety, has helped me develop a material connection to a new community. The students, teachers and staff at Community Impact are some of the most tenacious people I have ever met, and we’ve never even met in person. Volunteering with CI has truly been one of the most formative experiences of my undergraduate career, and will inform my work as an educator for years to come. 

 

---

Kasey Chatterji-Len CC ‘23 - ESOL Volunteer

 

Why do you volunteer? 

I volunteer with the ESOL program at Community Impact because it is a fun and fulfilling learning experience, and a great way to get involved in the greater NYC community. I love getting to know my students and hearing about their different cultures. I’m grateful to be involved in the CI-ESOL program because it provides me with meaningful experiences in an otherwise busy student life.

 

---

Nikita Desir CC ‘22 - ESOL Volunteer

 

How does volunteering make you feel?

I enjoy volunteering for the ESOL program because it allows me to give back to the surrounding community, beyond Columbia’s campus. Furthermore, I have much personal experience as a language learner and teacher because of my Comparative Literature studies and having grown up in a multilingual household. I have seen the struggle of my own family members in their efforts to learn English because of societal pressure to prioritize English instead of other languages, and thus, in my classroom I try to embrace my students’ multilingualism by making language learning more fun and less stressful. I think it’s important for students to know that although they are learning English, their native tongue is still important and language acquisition should be seen as a skill more than a necessity for societal acceptance.