Celebrating our February Volunteer of the Month: Dina Martin

This month we’re thrilled to honor the super dedicated Dina Martin as our February Volunteer of the Month. She has left her mark in almost every 826 program, volunteering about 150 hours with us since she began in 2015. In-Schools’ Program Manager, Ryan Young, was excited to recognize Dina, noting that, “She never backs down from a challenge and always approaches tutoring with a positive attitude and the belief that students can and will succeed.”


Dina is currently participating in our Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP), which takes place this year at Ida B. Wells Continuation High School. Ryan shared with us a moment from the project that speaks to the kind of tutor Dina is: “She is currently working with a YABP student who said on the first day, ‘I hate writing.’ After only four sessions of working with Dina, she’s expressed to her teachers that she’s really excited about the project now and feels a connection with her tutor (her attendance has improved, too!).” To learn more about Dina in her own words, check out her interview below.
 
 
What is one of your favorite moments (memories, experiences, or anecdotes) from volunteering with 826 Valencia?

I will always remember being in a classroom of new immigrant students at International High School the day after the 2016 presidential election. Teacher Paul McCarthy read a letter he had written to his students in the middle of the night in which he reassured them that they would be safe at school.

He told his students: “Your teachers love you, and that’s why we come to work every day. We could choose jobs that pay more money, or are easier, but we don’t. We teach because we want to support you. Together we will keep working and fighting to make the world better. Sometimes things are bad, but we can fight to make them better.”
He then asked his students sitting at their tables to say something they were grateful for. Nearly all the students responded by saying, “I’m grateful my parents brought me here so I can get an education.”

What a privilege it was to witness that moment.

What led you to become part of our volunteer community?

As a one-time education reporter and then a communications staffer for the California Teachers Association, I had spent a lot of time writing about education in our state. When I retired three years ago, I decided I wanted to spend more time working one-on-one with students in the classroom. I’ve really enjoyed the variety of programs that 826 offers—not just for the students, but for the volunteers!

Do you prefer pirates or pufferfish, and why?

I wasn’t sure which to choose until I read that one of the characteristics of a pufferfish is its thick skin. That’s probably something I could use as well.

What would we find you doing when you’re not volunteering at 826?

Currently, I have a part-time writing job and am studying Italian, taking a writing class, folk dancing, cooking, watching too much TV, and trying to adjust to retirement, both mine and more recently, my husband’s.

What is a piece of advice you would give a new 826 volunteer?

Sometimes to engage a student, I might spend a little too much time talking. I’m finding it useful to spend more time listening. I’m trying that out for the rest of my life as well.
 
Thank you, Dina, for your caring and dedication, and for being an inspiration to students, volunteers, and our 826 community. Ryan said it best when he concluded: “I could go on and on, but I’m really excited to nominate Dina Martin for Volunteer of the Month. So well deserved!”
 
Read more about our previous Volunteers of the Month.