An Interview with our January Volunteer of the Month!
We are delighted to announce that Regina Ramirez (or, better known as Naji) is our January Volunteer of the Month! Naji is a SFSU service learner at Mission High, and does an absolutely phenomenal job supporting our students. Thank you for all that you have done to mentor young authors as they reach for the stars!
1. Share a favorite moment or experience from your time volunteering with 826 Valencia.
My favorite moment from volunteering with 826 Valencia was when students came to recognize me despite meeting and working together one or two times. For me, it signals mutual trust and rapport which are often built over a long period of time spent together. In the English a Second Language Learner Program, we only get about 20–30-minute session with one student, and often have to jampack the tasks at hand which can be overwhelming. I think that bonding over shared interests, and laughing over something silly that happens at the spur of the moment releases the tension that tutors and students might be feeling that day.
2. What inspired you to join our community?
When I moved here to the U.S. in 2015, I thought I knew how to speak English. I learned English from kindergarten and frankly, it was declared one of the national languages of the Philippines at some point in history. Imagine my shock when I stutter on my words when talking to other people. Sure, I can read, write, and comprehend English, but my conversational skills were tanked. This was my motivation to become an ESL instructor. I want to assist adult immigrants with learning and speaking English while simultaneously navigating their brand-new life here in the U.S. Focusing my volunteering on the English a Second Language Learner Program would allow me to use these experiences as a springboard to my dedication. With the students I had in the community, I gained valuable experiences that opened my eyes and welcomed me into a larger world. I get to understand multiple facets of life just by being in this community, and my hope is that I’ll be able to extend the same energy everywhere.
3. What hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not volunteering at 826?
I enjoy keeping several journals, reading, and writing. I also like visiting public libraries and bookstores whenever I go to a different town or travel.
4. Any advice for new 826 volunteers?
Take it easy. Often I find myself thinking unnecessary thoughts that only amplifies my anxiety. I learned to limit my expectations both to myself and for the students I’m assigned to teach because it lessens the pressure I build up in my head.
Use words of affirmation. My favorite go-to phrase is just a simple “good job”. For me, it’s another way of saying, “I’m proud of you and the progress you’re making.” So, don’t forget to say it to your students perhaps after your learning sessions with them. It was such a delightful moment that some of the students I’d assisted the prior week would come up to me with a high five or a thumbs-up and saying in unison, “Good job, good job!”
I would also like to leave this little nugget I wrote for a writing assignment:
Education is as expensive as caviar while writing is as versatile as salt. Yet it is necessary to season our meal to make it palatable. As teachers, we have to satiate our students’ cravings to free their minds.
5. If you could transform into any literary creature for a day (dragon, unicorn, traveling pufferfish, etc.), what would it be and why?
If I could transform into a literary creature for a day, I would be Ibong Adarna—a colorful bird of the Philippine folklore. The Ibong Adarna has seven songs, each represents tremendous power. Thus, the mythical bird is often hunted by men to fulfill their own selfish desires. The Ibong Adarna only trusts a person with a pure heart, so whenever the bird detects danger would be inflicted to it, it sings one of its songs that can either lull you to eternal sleep or turn you into stone. The most sought-after power of the Ibong Adarna is its song that can cure any disease.
I like to think that I have untapped powers within me, and the challenge is to know how to harness them and employ them in appropriate circumstances. Being the Ibong Adarna for a day would certainly help me distinguish these powers, and create accompanying melody for each of them— ultimately composing a harmony.