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!