A Volunteer’s Perspective: Second Chances

“Our students are very important to us—they have reached out and asked for our help. This is often a last chance for them. They need tutors who are not only compassionate and willing to help, but tutors who are well trained. Adult learners face so many challenges; access to trained tutors shouldn’t be one of them.” 
– Ruth Colvin

ProLiteracy is celebrating Volunteer Awareness Month 

We want to put the volunteer spotlight on our very own programs administrative assistant, June Mastrogiovanni. 

June is also a one-on-one volunteer tutor at LiteracyCNY in Syracuse, New York. She is passionate not only about teaching her students basic literacy and English as a second language, but about creating a comfortable and enjoyable experience for her students that helps create a lasting impact.

Here is what June has to say about volunteering and how she makes second chances happen.

Q: What program do you volunteer for?
A: LiteracyCNY in Syracuse, NY.
Q: What is your volunteer role?
A: I’m a one-on-one literacy tutor.
Q: What inspired you to volunteer for an adult literacy program?
A: The husband and I built our home. We rested for a year and I decided I need to leave the house. I took some onesie classes and tried a few groups. I volunteered at the VA for a year. I thought about what I enjoy most—reading.  There was a new literacy tutor orientation at the Manlius Library—one of my all-time favorite libraries in the universe! I showed up and went through the orientation. I might have had too much fun in class with one of the other new tutors. Ruth Colvin came to speak with us one evening. She was awesome! The LiteracyCNY staff was very friendly, instructive, and encouraging. They matched me up with a student. That was in 2009.
Q: What is your favorite part about volunteering?
A: The weekly two-hour meetings with my students. Showing up. Chit chatting, catching up, and getting down to business. Homework. Reading their journal notes. Asking and answering cultural questions. Laughing and joking. Giving them magazines I think they will enjoy. Telling my ESL students to talk English with ANYONE, not just me. When my students hit a major goal it’s gravy: getting a driver’s permit, their driver’s license, attaining citizenship, finishing a workbook, or testing to a higher level. When they tell me about something they did that was new: reading to their kids, talking to their kids’ teachers, having a conversation with a doctor or nurse, or speaking to a stranger.

Q: Is there anything from the students that you have learned and would like to share?
A: They are wicked smart. I try to stay two steps ahead of them—barely. They’re friendly and warm. I’m particularly fond of the good cooks! When you’re eating mutton soup in the library under the “No food allowed” sign, life is good.   
Q: If you could send a message to all adult learners, what would you say?
A: I speak English and I speak bad English. I am in no way perfect. None of us are. We are all just trying to communicate with those around us. I tell my students to please just talk. Talk. Talk.  Talk. Talk. Talk. Practice. The more you listen, speak, read, and write the better you’ll get.  Most people are friendly. Talk with them!
Q: If you could share your experiences as a volunteer with other volunteers, what would you tell them?
A: There are so many students on waiting lists in need of you! They want what you got. To find volunteer opportunities go to or call 1-877-389-6874.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share about your experience as an adult literacy volunteer?
A: “Are you crying?” Yes. I have cried in front of every single one of my students. They know I’m a big crier. I don’t care. I show up and try to help them help themselves. They hand me tissues.



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