Forget a retirement party, what about a volunteer project? When Steve Wilhelm announced his retirement after 28 years with the Puget Sound Business Journal, a party was the furthest thing from his mind. Instead, his team found a perfect way to use their skills to give back.
Enter Seattle World School. There, 300 students from 6th to 12th grade, newly arrived from other countries, hone their English skills for a new life in the United States. Students are from Ecuador, Vietnam, China, Ethiopia. Some have been in the country for months, some just a week or two.
It was the perfect opportunity for Wilhelm, who covered aerospace and international trade for the PSBJ. Why not use his keen English skills to help these ESL students?
“We decided to liberate the news room for the afternoon and go where our writing skills might be well applied,” Wilhelm said.
The team of journalists – four writers, two editors and a researcher – worked with students to label objects on worksheets. Students passed around a box and pulled out everyday items to identify, volunteers helping them with pronunciation. Scarf. Bird. Ice cream cone. Others helped with verb labeling programs, which can be particularly confusing for people new to the language. They used worksheets to strengthen word recognition for directional skills, lettering, understanding change and cause/effect. Connect the dots using the alphabet – many students know the letters, but not the phonics. Once they’re up to speed they’re placed at schools within their home district.
With school in session when most people are at work, the school really appreciated news team’s decision to spend the afternoon volunteering. Students need one-on-one time or small group work, meaning teachers need a lot of volunteers.
And what did Wilhelm think of his team’s going away party?
He called the students he worked with “smart, amazing kids” and was struck by their drive.
“It was terrific, I think it was just really mind opening to meet with the students so recently here from different countries, and see their goodness and really appreciate their journey to thrive in the American world.”
Inspired to turn your next party into a volunteer project? We like the way you think. View our many volunteer opportunities here.