Success Story: The Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering

April 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

jessicaby Heather Kaufmann, Volunteer Coordinator

Jessica Giovanni moved from her home country of Indonesia to the United States when she was 14. Having to learn English as a second language has been a significant influence on her life, making her uniquely passionate about language learning.

“Tutoring in the Workforce Readiness program at United South End Settlements (USES) has made my studies and research real. These are people who study language to improve their lives, not just their grades,” says Jessica, who has been a USES volunteer tutor since October of 2014.

Jessica’s passion for language first manifested itself in high school when she helped found a Language Tutoring club to provide support for fellow students struggling with English, French, and Spanish. In college, she continued to tutor Spanish, which she says “provided meaning in my life outside of my classes and strengthened my interest in teaching languages.”

Jessica moved to Boston after graduating from college in May, 2014 where she heard about USES through VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.com). “Becoming a volunteer at USES has offered me an opportunity to do something I always wanted to do.”

Wanting to put her degrees in Computer Science and Spanish to use, Jessica was interested in volunteering at USES was as a Computer Class Assistant in the Workforce Readiness’ English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. She soon learned about the pressing need for ESOL tutors to support students outside of class time and jumped at the opportunity.

The goal of USES’ Workforce Readiness program is to ensure that South End and Lower Roxbury residents have the educational opportunities they need to move toward economic self-sufficiency. The program serves adults facing economic hardship, unemployment, or underemployment by helping them obtain the credentials and professional tools they need to be workforce ready.

Students are supported by a team of dedicated volunteers who tutor over 300 hours every week. Tutors help students keep pace with classroom materials and prepare for tests. More often than not, they end up helping students exceed their own expectations.

Jessica has continued to take on more responsibility within the Workforce Readiness program. She has tutored ESOL students, provided outside-of-class support to Learn at Work students, and assisted in the Transition to College program. She’s even working with USES Technology Coordinator Leah Samura to create curriculum for a new Web Design course.

Jessica loves seeing the impact of her service and how “rewarding it is to finally see a student understand a difficult concept or to hear a teacher give positive feedback about the ways that they’ve grown.”

Jessica says that working with adults has changed her perspective. “It’s opened my eyes to just how fortunate I’ve been. These students have to work so hard in order to get a fraction of what I have. I really admire them for working as hard as they do.”

This Fall Jessica will begin graduate school at the University of Southern Florida where she will study Applied Linguistics with a concentration in Second Language Acquisition for Adults. “Volunteering at USES has helped me to realize what I want to do and to put that into action. Everything about my work at USES has motivated me in the direction I’m going,” says Jessica.

USES would not be a place of neighbors helping neighbors without volunteers like Jessica who keep our programs going year-round. To learn more about volunteering at USES, email Heather Kaufmann, Volunteer Coordinator, at volunteers@uses.org or submit your Volunteer Application online here.

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