October 1-5 is National Tutoring Week, where education organizations across the country recognize those who help teach learners of all ages. Indy Reads classrooms are built around the support of volunteer tutors, and one of the ways we’ll be celebrating our volunteers this week with a series of volunteer spotlights.
Although Kathy Sunday volunteers with Indy Reads twice a week, she still finds time to volunteer at a local elementary school, play golf, travel, bike, and attend Bible study.
When asked how long she’d been volunteering with us, she replied that she’d lost count, but she knows she started before the organization changed its name to Indy Reads! We interviewed this veteran volunteer to find out what motivates her to continue working with us after so many years of service.
Why did you choose to volunteer with Indy Reads?
“As a teacher, I’m aware of the struggle of literacy of kids . . . I have a passion for literacy and I want to pass that along to students so they can be empowered to use literacy to change their lives in the way they want to change it.”
Because of her professional background working with children, she saw the value in teaching adults. “I feel like by helping adults, that can trickle down to children, grandchildren . . . and when they see their mother or grandmother going through this, they will see the importance of literacy. They have to get that influence from somebody, and if it’s not at home, it’s hit or miss as to whether or not they get that at school.”
Unlike working with children, behavior issues are not usually an issue with adults. Attending literacy classes at Indy Reads is by choice, so students tend to be motivated. However, working with adults comes with its own set of challenges. “They already have such low self-esteem,” Sunday explained. “Part of our struggle as tutors is getting them to believe in themselves.” In order to keep her students motivated when they feel like giving up, she talks to them about how thoughts “translate into actions.” She explains to them that, “If you have negative thoughts, that’s another negative hurdle you’ll have to jump over.”
What do you enjoy about working with students?
“Getting to know them as a person, finding out what their goals are for literacy, and becoming part of their lives to help them to achieve their goals.”
What have students taught you in the classroom?
“It has really opened my eyes to the situations that some of these students are in and that they’re willing to make that commitment with some of the struggles they have in life.” For example, a student in one of her classes recently voiced a concern about not having a quarter to buy a notebook for class until she received her next paycheck.
When you talk about Indy Reads with others, what do you say?
“I think it’s an awesome program and it’s a chance to give back and help someone that’s in need to achieve.”
This year, she agreed to tutor in our new location at Brookside Community Church, which is located in a high-crime neighborhood. She admitted to having reservations about tutoring there, but has a strong faith and feels she will be protected. When she tried to get some of her friends to volunteer with her, they refused due to the location. “We have to go where they are,” said Sunday. “We can’t expect them to come to [us]. That’s where the need is. As I go more and more, I’m more comfortable. Everyone is so friendly and nice there.”
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
“My husband and I met in the ski club. . . . He proposed on a little slope in Michigan.” They are still friends with people they met there, many of whom also found their life partners through the club. Last year, the group went skiing together for the first time in many years.
Although no one person or organization can help everyone, Kathy doesn’t let that discourage her. She even mentioned the sand dollar story in which a man rescued stranded sand dollars, one at a time, in spite of the overwhelming amount that he knew he would not be able to help. “We’re not changing the world, but maybe we’re changing one person’s life,” she explained. “It’s a ripple effect, just like when you show kindness to one, they show it to someone else.”