What better way to begin a season of celebrations than by appreciating our exceptional community of volunteers, including our December Volunteer of the Month, Olga Rodriguez. As a longtime tutor at our Writers’ Room at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 school and our After School Tutoring programs, Olga exudes empathy and positivity, lending her bilingual skills on a regular basis. BVHM’s Program Manager, Ashley Smith, says of Olga, “Her easy smile can set students at ease” highlighting how “she has been a huge support for our English Learners, and has built great relationships with students over the last two years.”
When we first reached out to Olga about her nomination, she responded by saying: “I really love being part of what you do to keep creativity alive in the children lucky enough to be part of 826 Valencia.” And Olga is surely a crucial part of fostering that creativity too.
Check out her interview to learn more about her story:
What led you to become part of our volunteer community?
I was lucky to have an ESL teacher who was supportive and encouraging and taught me to appreciate the value of education. She believed in me and in my dream of becoming a journalist even though when we crossed paths I was just learning English. After more than a decade abroad as a foreign correspondent, I returned to California and wanted to give back a bit of the motivation to always push forth what my teacher inspired me. I found 826 Valencia and was impressed with the dedication of the staff in motivating the kids to do their best, making their creativity always flourishes. I see it every week at Buena Vista Horace Mann, where Ashley’s kind and patient guidance helps the children stay focused and find a way to bring out whole new worlds.
Do you prefer pirates or pufferfish, and why?
Pufferfish because they are cuddly. And though you can’t really cuddle with a pufferfish, they are nice to look at, unlike pirates.
What is one of your favorite moments (memories, experiences or anecdotes!) from volunteering with 826 Valencia?
One of my favorite memories is from an end-of-the-semester reading that turned into a dance party full of laughter, where some of the shyest students showed off some unexpected moves. The kids were excited to get the newly published book and read some of their writing to their teacher, classmates, and tutors. Milk and cookies stoked up their joy, and after the reading, Ashley turned on the radio in the classroom. Soon, Marlon, who swore he wouldn’t dance, and Luis Felipe, who said he did not know how to dance, were twirling, and leaping, and jockeying for a place in the spotlight. It was an evening of laughter and literature, two of my favorite things in the world.
When not volunteering at 826, what are you up to?
I’m either doing yoga or exploring San Francisco’s hills and vast art and culture scene. If I have a chance to get away for a bit, I’m probably visiting a new country and learning about a new culture.
What is a piece of advice you would give a new 826 volunteer?
To know that even when it may seem you are not getting through to the kids, they are listening. To be patient and never stop encouraging them. And lastly, to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful world of a child’s imagination.
We’re lucky to have Olga among our fantastic volunteers. Ashley said it best: “Olga’s commitment to students has resulted in gains, and students appreciate her weekly support,” as all of us do here at 826!
Read more about our previous Volunteers of the Month.