The GHCC Blog Team recently caught up with the Adult Learning Center’s Catherine Mahan, who was recently awarded the 2015 Volunteer Award from the Maryland Association of Adult Community and Continuing Education.
Congratulations on receiving this award! How did you first come to be a volunteer at the Adult Learning Center?
Well, for most of my working career I ran my own design firm. It was work I enjoyed, but it did involve long hours and some travel away from home. I also raised two children, and I was active in my professional society. So I had very little time for service work. It was my plan to be able to do something to “give back to the Baltimore Community” where I had made my career once I retired. I had actually planned to retire by 2008 but the economy was so bad, it wasn’t a good time for me to leave my firm (I was president!). So I decided to go ahead and do some of the things that I hoped to do in retirement while I continued working. I came to the Adult Learning Center in 2008 and took the training to be a tutor. I taught ESOL classes right out of college, and have always been interested in Adult Literacy, so this was a natural fit for me.
Wow, we are so glad you did not wait to retire to become a volunteer with us! What do you do as an ALC volunteer?
It keeps growing and changing! Initially I tutored one-on-one with a woman who was from Korea. We met once a week, which was all either of us could manage as she worked full time also. We met for several years until my schedule no longer permitted it. I later became involved with a program the ALC developed called “Get That Job”. I developed a training piece on job interviewing which I gave a couple of times a year when the ALC was running the program. Then in 2010 I joined the Advisory Board, and I have worked on the Board ever since. I was co-chair of the Scrabble Fundraiser in 2013. I also continually work wherever I am out and about to shine the light on the ALC and to solicit donations for the terrific work that goes on there.
Your enthusiasm really shines through! Can you tell us what you like best about volunteering at the ALC?
I have always liked working with other people towards a common goal, be it developing a good design solution for an office project or working on people’s language and communication skills. But probably the best thing for me personally, is that I find that Greater Homewood and the Adult Learning Center are places where I have learned a lot and grown a lot myself. Not only do the people here have a good heart, but they run a smart organization, and I am continually learning from them.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the growth of Adult Education in Baltimore?
There are a lot of barriers to accessing continuing education, and the ALC tries to address them when they can (getting bus tokens, providing notebooks or classroom materials, etc.) As transportation is often an issue, bringing the classes into the community has been an important step, and the Center now has several “off site” classes. The Adult Learning Center changed its name several years ago from the “Adult Literacy Center” when it became apparent that there were negative connotations to “literacy” and some learners didn’t want their employers to know that they were taking ‘literacy” classes. The change to “learning” is a positive change.
What do you like to do in your time away from volunteering at the ALC?
I also volunteer at Cylburn Arboretum! As I am a landscape architect, I greatly enjoy helping out with their projects and maintaining the two hundred acres of gardens and open space. I also enjoy water color painting and printmaking.
Thank you, Catherine, for volunteering your time and energy to the Adult Learning Center. And congratulations again on receiving the 2015 Volunteer Award!