Volunteerism

Volunteer of the Month: Mary Weatherup

An image of Mary standing in front of the Shakespeare  Company bookstore!

An image of Mary standing in front of the Shakespeare Company bookstore!

Words Alive spotlights the amazing accomplishments and service of volunteers each month with our Volunteer of the Month award. This is an important way for us to thank you, and to honor just a few of the many great moments in time you have given to the organization.

This month our Volunteer of the Month is Mary Weatherup! Mary joined the Words Alive family fairly recently, but we have been so impressed by her dedication to our mission. She is a curriculum volunteer who diligently worked on a curriculum guide for our middle school students this summer, and she enthusiastically jumped in when we needed extra help on a guide for this fall! We were also so grateful for her support at our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Now, let’s hear more from Mary!

For as long as I can remember, I've been an avid reader. Entire childhood car trips and family vacations are a blur, lost to whatever story I was reading at the time. All these years later, it's still hard to tear me away from a good book.  I have a Master's Degree in English Literature and have spent years working in a university writing center. Upon moving to San Diego, I was looking for a way to use my love of reading and teaching skills, and Words Alive! seemed like a perfect fit. I started my volunteer work in May of this year, compiling a curriculum guide for middle grade readers. I learned a lot in the process, and I'm currently helping out with another guide. My favorite Words Alive! event so far was the Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser. It was a great way to learn more about the organization and meet the new Executive Director, and I loved hearing Emma Donoghue speak. I'm so inspired by the difference Words Alive! is making in the community.

I'm currently reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. As a big fan of The Handmaid's Tale, I had to have this one hot off the press! I am also looking forward to The Dutch House, a new novel by Ann Patchett, who is one of my favorite authors. Perhaps the best book I read this year, however, is an older novel, A Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers. It was such a sensitive story and beautifully written.

Remembering Carol Goodman

Words Alive is deeply saddened by the passing of one of our founding volunteers and donors, Carol Goodman.

Carol was a board member for Words Alive from 2001-2009. She was instrumental in expanding our Adolescent Book Group into new classrooms, specifically Choice School which at the time was located in City Heights. We continue to serve students in Juvenile Court and Community classrooms today. Carol was a member of the Words Alive Legacy Circle and over the past 20 years, has continued to support Words Alive by celebrating each year with us at the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser.

“Carol was a source of endless support to those around her and we all benefited from her energy and glow.”

- Leslye Lyons, Words Alive Founder

 If you would like to read more about the legacy that Carol left, please click HERE


Words Alive's 10th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event!

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern & Sara Mortensen, Communications Manager

An image of our Volunteer Appreciation Event. Volunteer Program Manager, Christina Meeker, stands at the podium in front of a screen that says “Volunteer Appreciation Event." Volunteers mingling over lunch also appear in the image.

An image of our Volunteer Appreciation Event. Volunteer Program Manager, Christina Meeker, stands at the podium in front of a screen that says “Volunteer Appreciation Event." Volunteers mingling over lunch also appear in the image.

On Friday April 5th, the community of Words Alive staff, volunteers, donors and supports joined together at the San Diego Public Library to celebrate the many special volunteers that help our organization run so smoothly. As we often say at Words Alive, the volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization.

An image of two of our incredible volunteers, Karen Mailn & Margie Roehm laughing at the camera.

An image of two of our incredible volunteers, Karen Mailn & Margie Roehm laughing at the camera.

At noon, everyone filed into the event space, where there were smiles and excitement all around. In an effort to connect volunteers with one another, everyone received a “signature card” at check-in with different prompts listed such as, “dislikes chocolate” or “has attended a Words Alive Cookies & Conversation event.” Depending on how many signatures one was able to collect, the more raffle tickets you earned! This signature card was a great way to start conversation with the many volunteers and board members present, and to get to know one another.

Once everyone settled into their seats at around 12:40, the award ceremony honoring our volunteers began. We awarded volunteers in 13 different categories, including: Rookie of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year, Leadership Volunteer of the Year, and of course, Volunteer of the Year. Each volunteer who was awarded gave a small but memorable speech all with a common theme, the true reward for them was giving back.

Our Volunteers of the Year were Kim & Doug Harrison. In September, Kim Harrison and her husband, brand specialist Doug Harrison, volunteered to lead the organization in identifying how best to convey its brand – in the simplest terms: what do we do, how do we do it, and what does that look like in the community.

This exercise has resulted in not only a refreshed logo which highlights the action and activity that our engaging programs ignite in students and their families, but language that better describes who we are and what it means for all of us to be touched by Words Alive.

This process has permeated all aspects of the organization – from examinations of our programs, to how we market those programs, how we celebrate and leverage the community partners, to how we look to the future – spreading this impact to every corner of our community and beyond.

An image of Volunteers of the Year, Kim & Doug Harrison, with Leadership Volunteer of the Year, Jeffrey Goldman!

An image of Volunteers of the Year, Kim & Doug Harrison, with Leadership Volunteer of the Year, Jeffrey Goldman!

In her speech, Kim said the following:

“For me it’s really about connection, because I think that’s why we’re here, to connect with each other. It’s so incredibly rewarding and every week when I leave it fills my heart because I get the opportunity to connect with these kids and to see their joy. At the end of the day it’s about a feeling the kids have for you, not what you taught them. So if I can connect reading and language and literature with feelings of joy and awe and curiosity, then I feel like there’s nothing better.”

After leaving the event, these feelings of appreciation and joy for the work we all do together lasted. Words Alive is very lucky to have each of its volunteers, and in turn the volunteers feel very lucky to have found Words Alive. As we gear up to enter our 20th year, we look to the impact Words Alive has had since being founded. Over the past 11 years, we have impacted 21,031 students and 1,546 families. We have given away 154,155 books and we have worked with over 1,255 volunteers. It is clear the mark we’ve all made is substantial. So, to anyone who has donated, volunteered or worked with us to better the communities by changing lives through reading and relationships, we thank you. Here’s to many more years to come with all of you by our side!  

Board Spotlight: Jeffrey Goldman

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Meet Jeffrey!

Jeffrey Goldman has been a part of the Words Alive family since 2014 and most recently completed his tenure as Board Chair on the Words Alive Board of Directors. Over the past five years, Jeffrey has been a constant source of leadership and inspiration through his commitment to Words Alive and bettering the futures of students in our programs. Jeffrey not only serves on the board, but also volunteers with our Adolescent Book Group as a writing facilitator at the Monarch School.

Jeffrey is the publisher at Santa Monica Press, an independent book publishing company, since he founded the press twenty-five years ago. Santa Monica Press publishes an eclectic list of critically acclaimed and award-winning non-fiction books. Prior to Santa Monica Press, Jeffrey spent a decade as an arts and entertainment journalist and editor, working for a variety of newspapers and magazines both nationally and internationally.

In addition to serving on the Words Alive Board of Directors, Jeffrey is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the La Jolla Playhouse, where he serves on the Executive Committee and is the chair of the Education and Outreach Committee.

I wanted to make an impact on the lives of children and believe that encouraging strong reading and writing skills is the simplest and most effective way to change the story of a child’s life.
— Jeffrey Goldman

Now, let’s hear more directly from Jeffrey!

How has Words Alive changed the story of your life?

Words Alive has changed the story of my life by making me aware of not only the extraordinary need in the community for advocates of reading and writing, but also of the number of incredibly talented children — brilliant writers — whose talent often slips under the radar of their parents and family members. The joy and fulfillment I receive from helping to spread the love of reading and writing to children, and further encouraging those children who already show a tremendous aptitude in these areas, has brought me endless pleasure and has truly changed the story of my life.

When was the first moment you fell in love with reading?

I remember reading a book (whose title I’ve long since forgotten) with my teacher and fellow classmates in kindergarten or first grade. It was a mystery of some sort, and before we turned the page to find out the surprise ending, the teacher asked us if anyone could guess what was going to happen. I guessed correctly, and the shock, surprise, and wonderment on her face gave me so much happiness and confidence that I couldn’t wait to read the next book she assigned! My love of reading (and writing) kicked into high gear from that point on!

How do you use literacy in your day-to-day life?

As a book publisher, writer, and editor, I not only use literacy in my day-to-day life, it has been my profession and my passion for 40 years.

Jeffrey working with an Adolescent Book Group student at Monarch School.

Jeffrey working with an Adolescent Book Group student at Monarch School.

What is your favorite book and why?

This is a nearly impossible question to answer because there are so many. Certainly Shakespeare and William Faulkner top the list of my favorite authors, and King Lear and As I Lay Dying are my two favorite works by these amazing writers. If forced to choose, I guess I’d go with King Lear. Why? Because it’s such a powerful, tragic story that encapsulates so much of the human condition.

What made you join the Words Alive board?

I wanted to make an impact on the lives of children and believe that encouraging strong reading and writing skills is the simplest and most effective way to change the story of a child’s life.

What has been your favorite aspect of being a Words Alive board member?

Working with the kids in the classroom; working with and becoming friends with the incredible Words Alive staff, volunteers, and my fellow board members; and being a champion of Words Alive out in the community.


Thank you, Jeffrey, for all you’ve done for Words Alive! Learn more about our Board of Directors here!

Carolina Enriquez - Volunteer of the Month - December 2018

 
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Carolina is an aspiring editor who joined our Words Alive Family as an intern in the summer of 2018. Her writing skills, experience working and communicating in an office, and familiarity with social media marketing made her a perfect candidate for our social media internship. Throughout her internship, Carolina helped create content and measure our visibility on all platforms. She volunteered outside of her role to support our events as well! Carolina volunteered at the VIP Reception for the 2018 Author’s Luncheon and Fundraiser. There she met and interacted with Words Alive supporters, helped with setup and organization, and saw the finished product of her marketing efforts over the summer.

Carolina is a devoted and caring individual who fit in perfectly with our team! We have been so fortunate to have her positive attitude and skilled support over the past six months. Thank you, Carolina!

Learn more about Carolina from the interview below!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in San Diego all my life. Since I was very young I grew up loving books. Right now I’m a senior at San Diego State University, studying English and Publishing! I enjoy discovering new books and poems to read. Aside from that, I enjoy walking my dogs, hiking, and drinking lots of coffee! I aspire to be a creative editor for a publishing company one day!

2. How did you get involved with Words Alive?

During the summer of 2018, I didn’t take any classes and was just working at my job as a receptionist. I wanted to do something meaningful and related to my future field. Luckily I found an ad for Words Alive online and I promptly applied. What first got me interested was Words Alive’s mission to advocate for children’s literacy education. As a lover of books, I can’t imagine my life without reading. I think what they are doing is incredible!

3. What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?

As a social media intern, I worked on creating content for various platforms. I absolutely loved my volunteer position and I learned a lot throughout my internship. The most rewarding part is probably knowing that the posts reached people and motivated them to volunteer! I also enjoyed writing the posts and seeing the impact Words Alive has in our community through the blog posts and even events like the Annual Author’s Luncheon and Fundraiser.

4. What are you reading lately?

I love a variety of genres in books. From fiction, nonfiction, YA, and classic literature. Right now I am reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.

Board Spotlight: Andrea MacDonald!

An image of Andrea with Christina Meeker, Words Alive Volunteer Program Manager, and Patrick Stewart, Words Alive Executive Director, at the 2018 Volunteer Appreciation Event.

An image of Andrea with Christina Meeker, Words Alive Volunteer Program Manager, and Patrick Stewart, Words Alive Executive Director, at the 2018 Volunteer Appreciation Event.

Andrea Mac Donald has been on our Board since 2013, and we are thrilled to introduce her as the incoming Words Alive Board Chair starting in 2019! Andrea MacDonald earned her Bachelor's Degree in Speech and Hearing from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Following school, Andrea worked as a real estate appraiser, earning many professional designations. In 1992, she moved to New Jersey where she started a residential real estate appraising practice for a leading commercial appraising firm.

After returning to California, and as her children grew up, volunteering in the community has been very important to her. Andrea served on the Board for the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning for five years, and was an officer for three years. As VP of Site Development, Andrea oversaw the fundraising for the six Solana Beach School District schools. Other organizations that Andrea has been involved with over the years are PTA, Girl Scouts, Miracle League, and National Charity League.

Andrea has not only been on the Words Alive Board since 2013, she has also chaired our Event Committee for many years, providing immense support and organization for our largest fundraising event of the year! We are so excited for what’s to come with Andrea as our Board Chair.

Now, let’s hear more directly from Andrea!

When was the first moment you fell in love with reading?

I have always had books in my life. When I was little, my mother shared her love of reading with my sisters and I.  She would take us to the library every week, and share with us how when she was little she decided to read every book in the library, and we would all go to each aisle with her and pick our books - trying to read our way around the library.

How do you use literacy in your day-to-day life?

I have discovered in the last few years, that I love being in the classroom with young children and have recently started working as a Substitute Teacher. I love reading to them, discussing a book with them, and watching them get excited about the characters and the subject matter…..watching the light bulbs going on!

What inspired you to join the Words Alive board?

When my children were in elementary school, I was on the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning. I oversaw all the fundraising for Solana Beach Schools. Words Alive was an incredible fit for me.  Reading has always been important to me, and to be on a Board with a similar mission statement fit. To be able to bring reading and writing to these kids, who may not be exposed to it everyday is so unbelievable and exciting.

What is your favorite book and why?

I am a voracious reader and belong to two book clubs. I cannot tell you one book I love because I tend to enjoy them all.  Many times I will read a book and not really enjoy it, then when I go to book club, hear the discussion, and then I’m ready to re-read it with a different perspective.  I have loved many books, but because there are so many books out there that I want to read, I have never re-read a book.

What has been your favorite aspect of being a Words Alive board member?

When I first joined the Board, Words Alive was concentrating on our three programs and doing a good job. But in the last 6 years, Words Alive has grown tremendously. Not only has our staff grown, but our reach has grown. It is really exciting to see how our programs have expanded. I’m looking forward to watching our growth in the future!

Thank you, Andrea, for all you’ve done for Words Alive! Learn more about our Board of Directors here!

Words Alive Welcomes John, AmeriCorps VIP Fellow

An image of John Camitan standing in front of a brick wall and smiling at the camera.

An image of John Camitan standing in front of a brick wall and smiling at the camera.

John Camitan joined the Words Alive Family in early September through the AmeriCorps Program, and will be working us for the 2018-2019 program year. His focus with the organization will be in volunteer infrastructure, and he will be a fixture at upcoming program and volunteer events. So far, John has hit the ground running and we’re so glad he’s part of our team.

We hope you get to meet him soon, if you have not yet!  Now, let's hear from John directly!

What intrigued you about Words Alive?

A big selling point was Words Alive working to inspire children to love reading and become lifelong learners. It put into perspective how much I took for granted, the number of books that I had access to as a child and how that impacted my development. It is such a noble cause and I am proud to be a part of it.

What are you most excited about in your new position?

I’m excited to work with a team that is genuine and passionate about helping members of the San Diego Community. I am eager to grow professionally with Christina’s guidance and help further develop the Words Alive volunteer program. As someone who is looking to enter the non-profit sector after completing law school, I am also excited to learn about how non-profits function and network with San Diego’s Non-Profit Community.

 What is your relationship with literacy?

I attribute a lot of where I am to literacy. The Harry Potter novels started my love of reading and sparked my curiosity for not just young adult books, but for other forms of literature. This love for literacy followed me to college where I studied Political Science, which consisted in hundreds of pages of political analysis. I don’t foresee my relationship with reading stopping anytime soon as I hope to attend law school in the future. 

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading IT by Stephen King. I watched the recent film adaptation and didn’t want to wait until Part 2 came out to find out what happens next.

An image of John sitting at a table with a fellow volunteer at this year’s Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

An image of John sitting at a table with a fellow volunteer at this year’s Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Currently, there are no employment opportunities at Words Alive, but we are ALWAYS recruiting wonderful volunteers to work in the classrooms with our students and families. Check out how to get involved as a Words Alive volunteer!

Board Spotlight: Kristina Houck!

An image of Kristina Houck standing in front of bookshelves and holding up a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

An image of Kristina Houck standing in front of bookshelves and holding up a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Kristina Houck came to Words Alive when we folded Rolling Readers into our portfolio of programs in 2014. She is an award-winning journalist and currently works as an editor for Patch, covering San Diego and Marin counties. She previously served as a staff reporter for U-T Community Press, a group of community newspapers in San Diego's North County. 

With a background in journalism and public relations, Kristina sits on Words Alive’s Board, serves as Board Secretary, and chairs the Communication & Marketing committee. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science with minors in English and religious studies from San Diego State University. 

Kristina lives in the San Diego area with her husband, Jason, and son, Harrison.

Let’s hear more from Kristina herself!

When was the first moment you fell in love with reading?

I developed a love of reading at an early age. From Dr. Seuss books as a young child, to "The Baby-Sitters Club" series as a preteen, I constantly had a book in my hand. 

How do you use literacy in your day-to-day life?

As a writer and editor, literacy is crucial to my everyday success. I read and write for work. I also read and write for pleasure. Most importantly, I read to my 19-month-old son, Harrison. It has been an absolute joy watching him discover books and already develop a love of reading. Some of his favorite books include "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "Where Is Baby's Belly Button?" and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," which was one of my favorites as a child. 

What inspired you to join the Words Alive board?

I joined Words Alive by way of Rolling Readers, where I served as a board member and chaired the marketing committee. When Words Alive folded Rolling Readers into their programs in 2014, it was a natural fit for me to join the team. I whole-heartedly believe in the mission of the organization and have seen the impact of the Read Aloud, Adolescent Book Group, Family Literacy and Westreich Scholarship programs on the community. 

In addition to sitting on the board, I serve as Board Secretary and chair the Marketing & Communication Committee, which strives to share the amazing work we do with the greater public. As Marketing & Communication chair, I also spearhead our annual Share Your Love of Reading campaign, which invites San Diego's most prominent politicians, media personalities and other local celebrities to act as honorary readers in Words Alive classrooms. Students receive free books during the month-long campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading aloud.

What has been your favorite aspect of being a Words Alive board member?

From working on the Share Your Love of Reading campaign, to visiting Words Alive classrooms and attending events, I've made so many memories and worked with amazing people while serving as a board member. It’s been truly rewarding to be a small part of an organization that has made such a big impact on the lives of children, teens and families in San Diego County. 

Thank you, Kristina, for all you’ve done for Words Alive! Learn more about our Board of Directors here!

Jennifer Van Pelt - Volunteer of the Month - July 2018

 
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Please join us in congratulating Jennifer Van Pelt - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for July 2018!

Jennifer has been a lead writer for the Words Alive Blog since February. Her ability to research and create content around relevant topics is a tremendous asset to our communication team and our organization. Her efforts continue to boost our blog views and highlight Words Alive as a leader in transforming lives through literacy.

We are so appreciative of the nearly 100 hours she has given in writing time so far!  And, we are thankful she shares her talent with our organization.

Thank you, Jennifer!

 

Check out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Jennifer below:

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a San Diego Native and attended SDSU for a Business Management Degree, emphasis in Human Resources. I enjoy talking to and helping people and also volunteer to teach English Second Language -- nothing is more rewarding to me than seeing others succeed. 

When and how did you first get involved with Words alive?
My passion for helping people is what attracted me to Words Alive. I love that we give our participants the tools to achieve their goals and inspire those around them to do the same.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?
The most rewarding part of volunteering with Words Alive is being able to witness all of the good that Words Alive does -- our success stories, photos, and events speak volumes for the organization and the impact we have on others. I am excited to see how Words Alive grows!

What have you been reading lately?
I have been reading the Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, inspired by my recent trip to Greece!

Board Spotlight: Kim Harrison!

A picture of Kim Harrison holding up a children's book, "The Day the Crayons Quit", for our Share Your Love of Reading campaign.

A picture of Kim Harrison holding up a children's book, "The Day the Crayons Quit", for our Share Your Love of Reading campaign.

Kim Harrison is one of our newest Board Members, she joined our Board in January 2018. Kim taught First Grade for seven years in Stamford, CT where she was a grade level team leader, bringing an innovative and progressive approach to the classroom. Kim had regional and statewide responsibilities for exploring new educational approaches to advance curriculum and was the recipient of several awards and grants including “Outstanding Prospective Teacher” from a pool of over 200 applicants.

Kim moved from Connecticut to San Diego in 2015 with her husband Douglas and their two children, Adam and Anna. Kim enjoys her new southern California lifestyle, spending time playing tennis, hiking and volunteering for Words Alive.

Now, let's hear from Kim herself!

Why do you love to read, and why is literacy important to you?

On a personal level, I love to read because it opens up my world, empowering me to be immersed into learning about anything my heart desires! Whether it be exploring other cultures and history, keeping up on current events, reading a recipe, or losing myself in a novel, reading opens up my world. Reading allows me to be an educated citizen, engaging me to be an active member in personal, family and community awareness.  

As a former teacher, I was able to witness the pure joy as my students learned how to read and make meaningful connections to their world. 

I am committed to promote and inspire literacy to our youth. It is my hope that at the highest level, literacy will create educated compassionate citizens.