Ed Hieshetter - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - May 2017

Please join us in congratulating Ed Hieshetter Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for May 2017!

Ed Hieshetter is a founding member of our volunteer team at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility.  He has been with our volunteer family about a year a half, and most of that time has been spent building a consistent and meaningful program with detained students at East Mesa through our Adolescent Book Group program.

Ed has led book discussions, writing workshops and career readiness programming, proving that he is a flexible and valuable facilitator. Not only is he dedicated to serving students in the classroom, but Ed goes above and beyond to improve the program behind the scenes. Ed is always thinking of ways to improve and build our program and often lends his support in this vein. He has also been involved in tailoring book selections and curriculum to fit East Mesa’s unique needs.

Thanks for all you do, Ed! The ABG at East Mesa surely wouldn’t be the same without you.


Check Out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Ed Below!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a retired investment advisor/financial planner and spent my entire adult life (56 years) in a solo private practice in that profession.  My credo from age 12 to today has been we all have a moral responsibility to give back to the community through volunteer work assisting those in need within our communities. If we ALL served just 2 hours a month in volunteer service within our communities we could solve many of our society’s problems. I have four sons, two granddaughters and seven great grandchildren! In addition, I have taken under my wing several other young adults as a grandfather figure by offering moral, emotional, and financial support for their educations and their overall lives in general. For the past five plus years I have also served (and continue to serve as a volunteer) on the board of directors of the Charter School McGill School for Success.  We serve an under-served section of our community. Lastly, for years I have been a public speaker representing many causes and organizations, been interviewed several times on television, had speaking (and non-speaking) parts in a few commercials, had 15 to 20 letters to the editor published in the LA Times.

How long have you been volunteering for Words Alive? And, how did you first get involved?

I have been involved in the Words Alive program now approaching two years. During that entire time, I have been involved in a pilot program serving the young men incarcerated in the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility. In our entire society, I believe they are at greatest risk of falling deeper into the criminal justice system thus passing into a lifetime within the adult criminal justice system. My goal is to turn their lives around by letting them know that there are some folks out here in society that sincerely care about what happens to them. 

I came to Words Alive via my friend and fellow board member, Charlene Sapien, who has been involved with the Words Alive program for many years. Though I can read (and do) to the students at McGill School for Success any time I want, I wanted a bigger challenge. She suggested I look into the Words Alive program. And indeed, here I am (along with my fellow teammates Chris and Sam) working with 15 young men all of whom are very important to me.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your current volunteer role, and your work with the organization?

There was a time in my life as a teenager that I came close to being in a juvenile detention center myself. In my students, I see a younger me. These young men need someone to believe in them and when they realize I really do care about what happens to them, they develop a different attitude towards me, towards themselves, and to the community at large. If I only reach one of them it’s worth the effort. And that's my payoff. In class, you can see at times when the light comes on within them and magic happens! You know you've reached them and it shows! As I've said to some of my Words Alive colleagues, I come out of many sessions a foot taller than when I walked into the session!

And, by the way, what are you reading lately?

Lately, mainly the books assigned by Words Alive for my "students".  But, I belong to many organizations and receive their publications in addition to the LA Times, the Readers Digest and other publications. My own preference is reading nonfiction as I tend to read for knowledge (and entertainment) and can tell a good book when I'm still reading it at 2:00 AM; even though tired I can't stop reading it!

My last comment is all of us need to be recruiters for Words Alive. Enlist others in sharing the joy and pleasure of serving the community by promoting a lifelong love of reading.

 – Ed Hieshetter