Volunteer of the Month

Care to meet the elite team of supervolunteers whom we’ve honored over the years?

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FridayFebruary 2019

tom arata is our february volunteer of the month

Tom Arata is a tutoring all-star! Such a bright and caring beacon in the after-school universe that we couldn’t believe he had not yet been named VOTM (or, as we thought more about it, VoTOM!). Tom has been tutoring with our program in Ypsilanti since mid-academic year 2018, when he heard about the opportunity from his coworker, former LST intern extraordinaire Kim Hawkins! Tom makes the long drive from Waterford to tutor in Ypsilanti on a regular basis, and has jumped into homework help in all subjects with incredible vigor, typically going above and beyond to get to know our students and learn about what interests them and the projects they are working on. Case in point: after his first few sessions of tutoring, he tracked down and re-read algebra textbooks at his home to refresh his memory and make sure he’d be comfortable working with students on any aspect of their math homework.

In addition to working with students, Tom has supported our organization in multiple ways, attending our OMNIBUS release party to cheer on our student readers. He’s also been a supportive participant in volunteer and staff celebrations and our back-to-school and back-to-tutoring tutor refresh sessions at the beginning of all semesters.

Like so many of our incredible volunteers, Tom’s work has a lasting impact on the students he supports at Ypsilanti tutoring. Just read what Madeeha has to say about him:

“I was actually one of his first mentees that he worked with, and I’ve worked with him on essays for government. He had a way of explaining everything—breaking things down for me. He was humorous and he was also fun–he made the most boring subject exciting. We bonded at tutoring and he is like a friend. He helped me look at teachers in a more positive perspective.”

–Madeeha Khan, 826michigan student since 2013 and first-ever 826michigan High School Programs Intern

Is there anything more we can add? We absolutely could, but feel like Madeeha has that perfect finishing touch. (In case you see Tom though, be sure to ask him about his home decor tips. Those are pretty outstanding, too.)

We are so grateful for all that Tom adds to the 826michigan community, especially our Ypsilanti Tutoring Program. Thank you, Tom! We celebrate you as our Volunteer of the Month!

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WednesdayJanuary 2019

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…

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SaturdayDecember 2018

Hatt Merlino has been such a welcome part of the Detroit After-School Tutoring volunteer roster. Their calm demeanor has helped set such a good tone in our tutoring space in Detroit this year. They have a unique way of engaging students in a warm and attentive way, with a sensitivity…

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ThursdayNovember 2018

Sandy Karolak is a retired teacher that spends much of her time working with various schools around the city and their students, Sandy is one of the most caring people we’ve ever met. Last year, when it came to her attention that students who needed glasses in Ms. Lowe’s class…

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MondayOctober 2018

Ben Schneedecker is the swiss army knife of volunteers. He magically seems to have all the little tools we need to keep 826michigan up and running. By day he is a coder, debunking and navigating problems into solutions and questions into answers. By night, or rather evening–and even more specifically,…

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SaturdaySeptember 2018

  Charlotte Moore began volunteering at 826michigan at the beginning of last school year. Throughout the year, Charlotte has been an all-around MVP for our 826michigan In-residence program at Estabrook Elementary. Over the course of the fall and winter semesters, she worked 1:1 and in small groups with students in…

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WednesdayAugust 2018

  Safiya Merchant joined the 826michigan volunteer team in August of 2017 and has been a non-stop force of enthusiasm, humor, and support ever since. She has helped in nearly every program in Washtenaw County (in-schools, workshops and drop-in writing, after-school tutoring, family writing laboratories), making time to work with…

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ThursdayJune 2018

“Oh, don’t tell me that. Now, I’m nervous.” This was Suzanne’s response when we let her know that our illustrator for a recent Storytelling and Bookmaking field trip was to be our good friend and 826 founder, Dave Eggers. While she has long admired Dave’s work, it is now us…

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FridayJune 2018

In the world of volunteering at 826michigan, there is sprinting and there is long-distance volunteering. Some folks are sprinters, and can volunteer for a couple of months, several times a week—but—because of other commitments in the world, or new jobs, have to reorganize their schedule and can no longer volunteer….

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FridayMay 2018

Can’t you just hear the sweeping, melodic rhythms of Pomp and Circumstance ringing out in the spring air? What a time of reflection, achievement, and completion. With graduations looming and graduates dashing around to finish credits and find gowns, it’s a bittersweet time at 826michigan–this is when we reflect on…

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