Sometimes 826michigan feels like a magical place and it is tempting to chalk the amazing transformations that happen here up to an intangible, indefinable “magic.” The truth is that we DO know what makes magic real at 826michigan, and that is human connection (no offense, bots). This connection is made possible by our incredibly generous volunteer community and amplified when volunteers are able to make long-term commitments to our programs and students. For example, Emma Liker, a tutor with our Liberty Street Tutoring program in Ann Arbor, is about to begin her FOURTH full school year of tutoring this fall.
As we gear up into back-to-school mode, we are delighted to honor Emma as our September 2016 Volunteer of the Month. Emma helps to make the magic real at our tutoring program in countless ways. She is Brave with a capital B; Emma will jump in and help any and all students on homework in any subject area. She shows unrelenting patience and kindness and has a remarkable talent for making authentic connections with each student she works with, getting to know them, asking them questions and joking with them about books they are reading, adventures they are taking. Emma shows genuine enthusiasm when working with students on their writing—an asset that is especially appreciated because as we grow the writing component of our tutoring program, infectious enthusiasm is key. She jumps into the writing table at tutoring, and helps with every step of the process, collaborating with students to come up with brilliant ideas for stories, collaborating with our interns to come with great ideas for writing prompts, and typing student work for publication. Finally, reliability might sound like a run-of-the-mill compliment, but this is the golden cornerstone of what makes connection at our programs possible and Emma embodies consistency and dedication.
Emma also has a knack for building friendships and creating great conversation with her fellow volunteers. She is a frequent participant in our Board Game Nights and other volunteer events, and it is a joy to listen in on the wide-ranging and engaging topics that she and fellow volunteers dive into during games (unless it is Bananagrams—no one can conversate deeply and play Bananagrams at the same time). She builds community anywhere she is—there’s that real magic of 826 again—with her kindness and welcoming, and her affinity for hilarious games.
Emma is always a careful noticer of details when it comes to our students and their experiences at 826, and she has brought forth countless good ideas to the staff for how to help struggling students, and for how to make our programs even better. As a veteran volunteer, she participated in our Fully Programmed training for new volunteers to enrich the conversation and give us feedback, suggesting that our programs can benefit when families connect more with volunteers. We’re making new efforts toward family engagement across programs this year, and we count on wonderful volunteers like Emma to make these connections happen and happen meaningfully. Many of the ideas she proposes lead to important conversations and support big changes at 826michigan and beyond at the 826 National level!
We’ll end with a short list of (a few of the many) other things we enjoy about Emma:
- Her email address includes a pun on her last name about liking vegetables—lettuce just say, we find it is hard to beet vegetables puns.
- She occasionally rocks super amazing, sparkly gold Mary Janes.
- Emma is a supporter of the LSRS&R, frequently stopping in to say hi and to peruse the store during tutoring breaks—it feels great when others love our little shop!