Gerry Ross, far left, with wife and co-tutor Leola, and graduating computer literacy students at the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services
Whenever we have the opportunity, we like to nominate our amazing volunteers for awards and recognition. We recently had the chance to nominate the wonderful Gerry Ross for the Community Quarterback Awards, an annual award for volunteers at United Way agencies, presented by the Houston Texans and BHP.
Gerry wasn't a winner this time (though you better believe we'll be nominating him again!) - but we still wanted to share his story with you.
There are very few volunteer opportunities at MAM Literacy Advance that Gerry hasn’t mastered. Immediately upon completing ESL tutor training in 2013, Gerry jumped into service roles. He actively led adult ESL classes and upon seeing greater need from students, took on additional citizenship and basic computer skills tutoring.
His adult literacy classes all share the common thread of being relevant, engaging, and student-centered with the goal of preparing adults to succeed in Houston, their new home. Gerry recognizes that his students are parents and workers who need to care for their families, and treats everyone in his classes with empathetic respect. Gerry has actively volunteered at multiple MAM Literacy Advance partner locations to ensure educational services were available to immigrant and refugee communities closer to their home, providing greater stability in their learning.
|Free children's books to give away
at a 2018 Family Literacy event
held at Albury Head Start!
Gerry’s heart is fully immersed in serving Houston’s most vulnerable neighbors, so, starting in 2016, he began participating in Family Literacy events across the city. In this capacity, Gerry engaged with parents and children to break the cycle of low literacy. Gerry is also a trained ESL New Student Registration leader, serving as a warm, welcoming face for students during their first interaction with MAM.
How has the nominee improved the lives of others in the community through his volunteer work?
In the five years Gerry has volunteered with MAM Literacy Advance, the only break he’s taken was for the months following Hurricane Harvey when he and his family were displaced from their home. Despite this, Gerry has engaged with more than 400 children and their parents in Family Literacy events, promoting family literacy through activities and distribution of free books, and has registered more than 100 adults to begin the life-changing journey of learning English.
Even greater than this impact, though, is the mark Gerry has made in his adult literacy classes. Despite a busy travel schedule for work, Gerry fits in multiple classes each year, ranging from one-time drop-in classes for students on our waitlist to eight-week supplemental classes for students who need extra language practice.
In total, Gerry has assisted more than 300 adults in language acquisition and has treated each one with dignity. He provides a safe space for students to ask questions and make mistakes, and encourages cross-cultural relationships amongst students who come to Houston from all over the world.
What sets the nominee apart and makes him deserving of recognition?
Gerry’s genuine enthusiasm to serve others is unmatched, and an inspiration for his fellow volunteers and the staff alike. After getting to know Gerry, he’ll share that his father suffered from dyslexia and low literacy for all of his life. Gerry, too, has worked hard to overcome literacy barriers and learn a second language, in his case Spanish, when business travels took him to Mexico early in his career.
|Gerry and Leola Ross and friends
Bill and Jeanette Powell at the
2017 Scrabble in the City fundraiser
His ability to empathize with low-literate adults comes naturally because of these experiences, and Gerry has the valuable skill of breaking down barriers that nervous students arrive with, helping them feel at home, and creating the community and relaxation that’s crucial to the learning process. Gerry’s classrooms are full of laughter, but also the critical information that adults need to succeed in Houston, including such recent topics as buying
a car and navigating endless options for personal banking products.
Gerry embodies the fact that changing one life can change a family, and changing one family can empower a community. His servant heart is committed to making Houston better.
Gerry, we love you! Thank you for all you do!
Don't forget our previous spotlights!