Celebrating Tom Koren, our April Volunteer of the Month

The school year might be winding down, but our programs are still in full sail thanks to our remarkable volunteers. And speaking of which, we are honored to present the amazing Tom Koren as our April Volunteer of the Month! Tom is a new volunteer that has quickly become a pillar of our After-School Tutoring program, supporting students for over 100 hours since just last September. Programs Manager Kathleen Rodriguez, commented on Tom’s constant support saying, “Although he is a new volunteer, he’s shown extreme dedication and commitment to our students and their families. He works with multiple students at a time, and always treat them with patience and positivity.”

It’s rare to find a volunteer making such a strong commitment immediately, which made us very excited to catch up with him and learn more about his experience as an 826 tutor.

What led you to join the 826 community?

After retiring as a physical therapist, I wanted to help young people grow into the future. Plus, give back to the Mission community, an area I know well. I’ve known about 826 for awhile but didn’t have the time to commit. The values, goals, substance, creativity, and vibrancy of 826 set it apart. Volunteering here makes me happy!

What are some of your favorite activities? (apart from volunteering of course.)

I enjoy visiting museums around town (the Legion of Honor is a gem!), walking in the Lands End, exercising, and photography. I help out at the Mission Science Workshop and I’m actively promoting the single-payer health care reform. I’ve also been traveling to Arizona in recent years to visit friends and grow a collection of Hopi pottery. And I co-parent the fabulous Grace, the world’s most wonderful cat!

What’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had as a tutor?

Listening and watching students read their stories on stage [at the book release of] Look Closer/Mira de Cerca. Some were cajoled to step up, others to step down. Some whispered, others boomed, but each author enjoyed the smiles and applause. The pride of all the 826 students and families was heart-warming. It was quite a special event!

Do you prefer pirates or pufferfishes?

Pirates—both can be fatal, but with enough motivation and influence, pirates can hopefully change to become a force for good! And they have more fun than fishes.

What advice you would give a new volunteer?

Above all, be flexible. Honor individuality and independence. Remember names. Consistently validate students and their work. Figure out ways to bring out their best. Focus on progress, not perfection. Share some things about yourself. Bask in the joy, laughter, curiosity, and energy all around you!

Tom, we’re so grateful for the joy and energy that you bring to volunteering! Kathleen rightfully said in her nomination: “What’s particularly spectacular about Tom is that he refuses to abandon a student who is in the middle of a difficult homework assignment. He’s frequently stayed until much past his scheduled time to work with students who hadn’t finished their complex assignments. He jumps in to help program staff, and he’s had a huge positive impact on the AST community.” And we’d like to add that this impact can be felt on the 826 community as a whole. Thanks, Tom!

Read more about our previous Volunteers of the Month.