UW News

November 17, 2005

CFD: Helping at-risk youth, and much more

Editor’s note: Throughout the Combined Fund Drive, which runs through Nov. 23, and into December, University Week will feature University employees who volunteer their time and talents at CFD agencies.

Name: Mary Whisner

UW Job: Assistant librarian for reference services, Gallagher Law Library

Volunteer Activity: Youth Tutoring Program

Organization’s mission: As it says on our Web site (http://www.ytpseattle.org/), “The Youth Tutoring Program’s mission is to tutor, guide and inspire at-risk youth living in public housing to achieve academic success.

“We create a challenging, safe and enriching environment where youth are matched with adults who offer academic support and mentoring throughout their school years. We partner with parents and advocate for students in their schools and in their communities.”

How long a volunteer for this agency: One and a half years.

Why these activities? I wanted to be involved with children and education.

A memorable experience while volunteering: During the summer reading program, everyone in the tutoring center came together for 15 minutes to hear a book read aloud. When it was my turn to read a few chapters I loved hamming it up and seeing the kids respond to the suspense, adventure, and humor in the story.

Satisfaction in volunteering: I enjoy being around the students and the other volunteer tutors. It’s a warm, positive community. And sometimes the kids crack me up.

Tutoring is a way for me to share something that has been incredibly important to me: education. While education is important for adult survival skills (from reading a prescription to working in a profession), I think it’s at least as important to open the doors to all the rest that education makes possible — reading for pleasure, reading to understand oneself and the world, writing to communicate important ideas and feelings, using science and math to analyze problems, experiencing the joy of intellectual discovery.

Helping a fourth-grader with multiplying two-digit numbers or picking out topic sentences might seem far removed from this lofty goal, but it’s a step in that direction.