Our January 2019 Volunteer of the Month, Beverly Manko, first came to 826michigan to attend one of our Courageous Conversations dialogues. In these sessions we talk with volunteers about creating space in our programs to have conversations about identity with our students. Beverly is a docent at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) and was invited to attend the conversation as part of 826michigan’s partnership with them. Our staff worked with the museum to coordinate a two-part field trip in which students collaborate to write new, creative survival guides that are set within the paintings or other pieces of art from UMMA collection. Students leave 826michigan with a chapbook that contains all of the group’s art-inspired writing and then travel to UMMA, where they meet with UMMA docents to tour the museum, and visit their art pieces, reading the survival guides aloud to docents and other volunteers and museum goers.
Beverly not only went out of her way to participate in this optional Courageous Conversations dialogue, she engaged very courageously and deeply in the conversations we had, and soon after was in touch about doing additional volunteer work directly with 826michigan.
Beverly then began volunteering in early October as a tutor in our Ann Arbor After-school Tutoring program. She was immediately beloved by adults and students alike, and became a student favorite. Violet DePasquale, our very own Program Director Amy Sumerton’s daughter, gave Beverly a glowing review after their tutoring sessions together.
In addition to supporting our tutoring program, Beverly joined one of our in-school projects this fall at Ypsilanti Community High School. Focused on community-based journalism, two classes of English Language Learning students considered ideas of media literacy, “fake news,” and high-quality sources. They had a chance to write a news article or an editorial piece during this on any topic that was relevant to their lives or community. (Look out for an upcoming publication of this writing!) Throughout this project, Beverly demonstrated her caring demeanor through asking students really thoughtful questions, listening and speaking carefully, and finding authentic points of connection.
Beverly has a special way of connecting with students and seeing them as individuals. She is extremely patient and calm, and simultaneously excited and joy-filled. Beverly will use stories as a way to get to know students, once asking a student where he would travel if he could go anywhere in the world. The student was initially not into the idea of writing, so Beverly began to ask follow-up questions instead. This genuine questioning encouraged the student to piece together a detailed story, showing him by example how writers can plan out their story ideas orally.
We are so thrilled to have the privilege of working and learning alongside Beverly Manko—thank you for all you do, Beverly!