Mark Taylor

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Where are you originally from, and what brought you here?

I’m originally from Illinois. I was raised and educated in the Chicago area and later moved to Rockford. I had travelled to the NW a number of times and loved the environment and the people. I even preferred the climate, rain and all! So in 1984 I moved here.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I just retired in March from a diverse nonprofit career. I’ve been a lawyer in a legal aid program, an entrepreneur co-founding a small community movie theater, executive director of two youth-serving agencies in Bellingham, field staff supporting western state affiliates of a large national organization, and grants director for the Alliance for Education in Seattle (from which I just retired). On a very part-time basis I continue my small consulting practice helping nonprofits develop systems for calculating and reporting program metrics and tracking funding.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I was moved by reports of increasing numbers of refugees and the challenges they face in camps and resettling in new countries (if they’re able to). I had been a Talk Time volunteer for a while in Bellingham, so it seemed natural to get involved in a similar way in Seattle. While few of my students are refugees per se, they all have very interesting and sometimes hair-raising back stories.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

It gives me a chance to focus on something very different than my usual routine; it gets me outside myself and my to do list. On a practical level, the LS program at the Central Library worked well for me since I worked just a few blocks away and could flex my work hours. The staff is very supportive, accommodating, and appreciative. I heard myself say to someone that it was the best decision I made in 2016! I really enjoy meeting people from so many different countries - so far they include South Sudan, China, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, Chile, and Iran. I appreciate discussing the cultural differences with the students. Meeting them also motivates me to learn more about the geography and politics of their countries.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

I’ve enjoyed every student I’ve worked with. A particularly enriching experience was working with an Iranian couple who had only been in the U.S. for three weeks when we met. At the end of the quarter, I introduced them to two neighbors of mine who met while they were teaching in Iran in the 1970s before the revolution. They worked there for four years and later married. It’s very meaningful for my former students to meet and develop friendships with Americans who love Iran and are familiar with its rich history, art, and culture. The five of us get together about once a month for dinner.

What might people not know about you?

My parents housed and helped several Vietnamese families resettle after the war in the mid-1970s. I was living away from home, yet the opportunities I had to meet these families and hear their stories made me personally aware of the challenges of immigrating, especially for refugees. On the personal side, I love to bicycle, play tennis, and sit on the front porch gabbing with neighbors. It’s a great place for hearing (and telling) tall tales!

Dave Langton

Dave is our volunteer spotlight of the month, and has taken the time to answer a few questions. He has volunteered as ABE student Sam Griffin's tutor since Literacy Source came to Lake City. He has now moved on to pursue other ambitions, and we're grateful he spent the last year here. We wish Dave a lot of luck in the future!

Where are you originally from? What brought you here?

Originally from Pennsylvania, I moved to Seattle to be with my wife and stepdaughter.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I've worked and volunteered with individuals and organizations trying to improve access to education, technology, information, and a better quality of life. I'd like to find new ways to keep doing that.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I liked that Literacy Source is an organization helping adults who don't have the resources currently to continue learning. I wanted to be a part of that. A large percentage of the students are immigrants and refugees so the services provided by Literacy Source feel especially important at this time.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

The training I received was excellent. The content is full of teaching tips and strategies. The way they teach models the way you'll tutor or teach your student(s). I also enjoyed the experience of tutoring with a student. It was an opportunity to learn more about the student as well as myself.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

The highlight for me was to see the students' determination to learn. They came to a tutor session with all the responsibilities of the day on their mind and they still managed to focus on their learning. They developed some amazing strategies to navigate life over the years, but they wanted to keep learning in order to improve their skills. It was inspiring to me.

What might people not know about you?

I've been taking piano lessons, which at times feels like a second language. Being a learner (of music) and a tutor (with Literacy Source) - at the same time - has given me a better understanding of encouragement, patience, and the excitement of learning something new.

Dave (right) is pictured above with his tutoring student, Sam.

Kyle Samuels

We're excited to spotlight volunteer Kyle Samuels this month! She's been at Literacy Source for a year - she started out as a beginning ESOL class assistant, and is now tutoring an ESOL student from Morocco. She took the time to answer a few questions:

Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?

I’m originally from Pennsylvania. I moved to Seattle in 1978 after graduating from college with my boyfriend (now husband of 38 years!), who had family and a job prospect in Seattle, and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of this part of the world. 

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I retired from practicing law about 6 years ago and have done a variety of different kinds of volunteer work since then, but have enjoyed teaching ESOL most of all. I also do some pro bono immigration law through the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is a great organization that does such important work in these challenging times. Social justice, including immigrant rights and mental health advocacy, are my passions. 

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I started teaching ESOL beginning learners at Casa Latina in south Seattle but live in the north end of town, so when I heard that LS was moving to Lake City I jumped at the chance to teach closer to home. 

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

I absolutely love getting to know my ESOL 1 students and watch them work hard and gain confidence as their skills grow. They are all so enthusiastic and undaunted by the challenges of learning a new and very difficult language as an adult. 

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

No one story stands out, but it is always a highlight to celebrate the successes with my students. It’s a great joy to watch.

What might people not know about you?

 My husband and I have one wonderful daughter and two ridiculous dogs. We all enjoy spending time in the mountains. Music and playing the piano are also a big part of my life. 

We are grateful for your passion and dedication to your students, Kyle!

Library Volunteers

Literacy Source’s Lake City Center houses a growing library of over 2,000 books that serves as an important resource for students, volunteers, and staff. Over the years it has become apparent that the card catalog system used to lend books to the Literacy Source community was no longer serving our needs well. With the incredible support of a small group of library volunteers, we are excited to announce that we have completed the transition to an online, automated library catalog and lending system!

Our library volunteers play an important role in helping Literacy Source provide accessible reading materials for our students and instructional resources for our volunteers. Nancy Rauhauser, one of our long-time library volunteers, shared some words about her experience volunteering: “Even though working on the library doesn't put me in direct contact with immigrants much, I like the idea of being around people different than myself. Literacy opens doors for people; I'm happy to make a contribution to that.”

This achievement could not have been accomplished without the amazing effort and dedication of our library volunteers: Nina West, Jolene Vrchota, Nancy Rauhauser, Dave Langton, Jerry Chen, Celia Glover, Haley Erb, and Luise Asif. You can check out the result of their incredible work, our new library catalog, here.

Pictured above: Jolene Vrchota (left) and Nancy Rauhauser (right)