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Volunteer Spotlight

Deepika Mamnani

Deepika, center, with Reading Practice Group students.

Deepika has found new and wonderful ways to empower adult learners at Literacy Advance since 2011 – she has volunteered for more than 200 hours so far!

The class that currently brings out her superpowers is the Adult Basic Education Reading Practice Group (RPG). This is an optional, supplemental class that reading students can attend while they’re waiting for placement, or in addition to their regular classes. Deepika and a few other, specially trained tutors sign up for individual lessons. She travels a lot for her job and can’t fit a regular 12- or 16-week class in consistently, so the flexibility of RPG works well for her.

Deepika leads learners through a variety of exercises that give them extra practice, and shares a common reflection journal with the other RPG tutors. Students can come as their schedule allows, but most come regularly, and Deepika has developed a personal understanding of each learner’s goals and challenges. She’s great at identifying wins that tutors who are with students more regularly might not see, and she doesn’t pass up a chance to celebrate progress!

Her sincere admiration motivates students, and her attention helps us know when students might need additional support. Deepika always seems to exude kindness and compassion, but just ask her about RPG, and you will see her love-light shine!

What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

My mom works in literacy for underprivileged children in India. I was inspired by the meaning and joy volunteering bought to her life, and wanted to experience the same along with my current career.

I am an engineer by profession, and work in the space of Information Technology. I work for a consulting company and in my role, am required to travel across the US and globally as well, during the week. I was looking for tutoring options, that were flexible with my schedule and allowed me to pursue an opportunity to tutor on weekends.

I did a lot of research online, and the reason I selected Literacy Advance was that there were many ways to tutor either through teaching English to adults through a variety of programs such as English as a Second Language, Waiting Class, or special classes such as Computers. Moreover, these options were available on Saturdays which worked very well for me.

What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

The engagement with the students. I learn so much about life, cultures, teamwork, and empathy from them.

The students in the Reading Practice Group are particularly inspirational. They are extremely diligent and more importantly exceptionally sensitive to each other. This is a multi-level class and the students help each other not only with the language but in other areas as well. Many of them travel from faraway locations, and their dedication to the subject and towards each other has taught me so much.

They are a shining example of teamwork and looking out for each other. Professionals who work in a corporate environment and families could learn so much on teamwork and taking care of one another from them.

The other thing that I truly like, is that Literacy Advance has managed to create a safe environment where everyone can ask questions, discuss, and learn together. If your student understands the topic, you will get instant feedback. There is no pretense. The joy that you get, when your student masters a particularly difficult topic is priceless. It is this warmth, honesty, transparency and the bonding with the students that I enjoy the most.

Most volunteers are nervous before they start tutoring. How did you prepare for your first class?

My first class was a computer class in 2012. I was scheduled to tutor Microsoft Word and Excel over twelve lessons. I prepared for it in the following ways:

  • I was not nervous about the technical content as I understood the subject, but was very apprehensive about teaching adults. To overcome that I got some great literature from the library, on how adults learn and strategies to teach computers to adults.
  • I referred to the resources provided by Literacy Advance and created a twelve-week lesson plan.
  • I also got references to some Excel and Word applications, in the online resources section on the Literacy Advance Website. I downloaded these on my iPad as well. I found this to be very effective.

I was more nervous later, when I started teaching the Waiting Class and more recently the Reading Practice Group which I enjoy the most today : )

One thing that helped me overcome my nervousness for these two classes, was observing other volunteers and seeking guidance from them. Ahmed, my mentor for Waiting Class, and Mario, one of the first tutors of the Reading Practice Group, helped me prepare by providing guidance on materials and suggestions to run these classes.

Another thing that helped me, was the material for the theme of month and the online resources on the Literacy Advance website.

What would you say to other people who are thinking about volunteering?

It is the best gift that you can give yourself.

A student and tutor relationship is a win-win relationship, where the tutor is aiming to make the student successful, and the student is also trying to make his or her tutor successful. You don’t need to have the experience. You just need to have the desire to help and the support from the Literacy Advance team, will make you successful.

It is a magical experience. Try it. You will gain much more than you ever imagined.

Who is your favorite writer?

I read a variety of genres and have many favorites.

In the fiction genre, my favorites are Erich Sehgal, Rohinton Mistry and Jhumpa Lahiri.

In the non-fiction category, I love the works of Malcolm Gladwell, Robin Sharma, and Daniel Goleman.

When it comes to poetry, philosophy and spirituality, my favorites are Khalil Gibran, Maya Angelou, Eckhart Tolle and more recently Herman Hesse.

Thank you, Deepika!


Don't forget our previous spotlights!

Find the 2018 archive here.

Find the 2017 archive here.

Find the 2016 archive here.

Find the 2015 archive here.

Find the 2014 archive here.

Find the 2013 archive here.

Find the 2012 archive here.

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