Lisa Ellis earns a living as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But after work every Thursday, she indulges her passion for helping others. Since September 2008 Lisa has volunteered her time to tutor an adult learner in basic reading and writing skills at the Greater Homewood Adult Learning Center. Lisa is one of more than 100 dedicated volunteers who help the Adult Learning Center carry out its mission of providing learner-centered education to promote literacy in Baltimore City.
We recently interviewed Lisa about her volunteer experiences at Greater Homewood:
GHCC: What motivated you to volunteer at Greater Homewood?
Lisa Ellis: I have always had a passion for reading and writing and wanted to share that passion with others. Before I began tutoring at GHCC, I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Baltimore. So many of the individuals I encountered there did not have basic skills in reading and writing. I felt that one of the best ways to help another adult was to help them learn to read and write.
GHCC: What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?
LE: I most enjoy knowing that I am sharing my passion to help others. Reading can be consuming and relaxing. It can challenge as well as entertain. Reading impacts so many areas of your life. Learning to read and comprehending what is read can open up a world of possibilities for the learner.
GHCC: Can you tell us about your relationship with your learner?
LE: My learner is highly motivated and dedicated to learning to improve his reading and writing skills. I work hard to ensure that our tutoring sessions are designed to meet his needs. He is committed to learning and I respect him tremendously. We have great rapport.
GHCC: What challenges have you and your learner overcome together in tutoring?
LE: The initial challenge was developing a level of comfort and a good working relationship – one built on mutual trust and respect. Before our pairing, he was paired with another tutor who could not continue to volunteer at the Center. He was initially shy, but we managed to develop a good relationship in a short period of time. We maintain a professional relationship, but always manage to make the learning experience enjoyable.
GHCC: What are your learner’s goals for the coming year?
LE: Our goals include writing more, including letters for everyday purposes and short stories. We have been focused on sentence structure and short paragraphs. We will now work more on character and object descriptions to build short stories.
GHCC: In addition to tutoring at Greater Homewood, you have volunteered as a mock interviewer for our “Get That Job!” class for a number of terms. What did you enjoy most about this volunteer opportunity?
LE: What I most enjoy about the mock interview process is the opportunity to provide the applicant with a real life job interview experience. I think that the participating learners gain great insight into their strengths and weaknesses. The feedback that is provided to participants can be revealing. During the last mock interview process, my feedback to the participants was very much appreciated. They both thanked me for my candor. I would highly recommend this volunteer opportunity to others. I’ve interviewed many individuals throughout my career. I know what many employers are looking for in applicants and have great insight into proper interview techniques and resume construction. Being able to advise others about how to present themselves professionally during an interview is extremely rewarding.
If you would like to follow in Lisa’s footsteps, we are currently recruiting volunteer One-to-One Tutors. Compassionate volunteers with a commitment to enhancing the lives of Baltimore residents are needed to work one-to-one with adult learners, teaching basic reading, writing, and/ or math skills. Tutor-learner pairs meet for at least two hours a week, and volunteers are asked to commit for one year. Scheduling is flexible. Please go to our website, or contact Erin George, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-261-3519 for more information or to request an application.