This March, we are in full celebration mode for our Volunteer of the Month, Henry Roark! Always with a positive attitude and unique personability, Henry is a great support to students and volunteers alike. And in case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re a fan of amplifying voices, including our volunteers’! That’s why 826 brought back the Ambassador Program, which helps maintain a lively connection between long-standing volunteers and new ones. Henry has been involved in the program from the start, attending all Ambassador’s meetings and volunteer orientations. That’s one of the reasons why our Program Manager, Kiley McLaughlin, can’t stop praising him, also adding that he is a consistent Sunday tutor who approaches volunteering with patience and zeal, going above and beyond for his community by reaching out to lapsed volunteers and encouraging friends to attend orientations as well. All those efforts help achieve 826’s goals of a low student-to-tutor ratio.
As you can see, Henry is awesome, and we’re excited to share with the 826 community a little bit more about him! Keep reading to learn more.
What is one of your favorite moments (memories, experiences or anecdotes!) from volunteering with 826 Valencia?
I have such a range from helping students start to enjoy learning, reading, and writing to just seeing their faces beam with a feeling of accomplishment in finishing a homework assignment. But I’d have to say one of my favorites was working with Jose during Personal Statement Weekend. He was ethnically Chinese, grew up in Mexico, and moved to San Francisco for high school so he could attend an American university. It was such a meaningful opportunity to hear his story, parts of which resonated deeply with me.
Tell us a bit about your relationship to writing.
I think writing is one of the most powerful mediums to express yourself and communicate throughout life, and I want to empower everyone to do so. I remember consciously deciding to bite the bullet and devote myself to developing my writing skills in high school. It didn’t come easy, but I went out on a limb and applied to work at my school’s writing center, and got the chance to continue at the one at my college later on. I took a course there that helped me feel more empowered with my writing, and I hope to help others feel the same way through volunteering at 826.
Do you prefer pirates or pufferfishes?
Pufferfishes! The sound of saying it and all the fun variations you could make: flufferfish, phufferfish, plufferfish, mufferfish, I could go on.. And how fun that must be, to puff like that with the cutest, chubbiest cheeks.
What would we find you doing when not you’re not volunteering at 826?
Reading in the bath, flipping through my coffee table books, writing, biking around town, coffee shop hopping, or just blobbing around at home.
What is a piece of advice you would give a new 826 volunteer?
It’s a journey and an adventure! Some quests will be immensely gratifying, others will be frustrating, still, others will feel like a total failure, but they’re not! Just being there for our students is enough, it shows them that we care. If you can come all the time, great! If not, take some time for self-care (but come back later!).
Thank you, Henry, for being such a caring member of our community! It warms our heart to see your smiling face every Sunday. And to all the other amazing volunteers out there, if you are interested in taking your 826 engagement to the next level, please consider joining the Ambassador Program! We would love to have you! Email Lila for more information.
Read more about our previous Volunteers of the Month.