Meet our February Volunteer of the Month: Beth Dukes
1. How did you first get involved with 826NYC and why did you decide to volunteer?
I was introduced to 826NYC in fall of 2015 through Director of Education Rebecca Darugar, a former colleague and dear friend. Around the time that I learned about all of the amazing opportunities to volunteer with 826NYC, I was transitioning out of a teaching role and into an adult management role at work. I wanted to stay connected to kids and continue to build on my teaching/tutoring skills, so 826NYC seemed like the perfect fit! I’m especially grateful for the opportunities to volunteer on weekends and virtually, although I’ve taken a few days off of my 9-5 to perfect my Bernadette Peters-inspired Ms. Mildew.
2. What’s your favorite part of volunteering at 826NYC?
There are quite a few! Entering the secret lair (aka Park Slope Tutoring Center) through the Superhero Supply Company never ceases to delight me. I’m also the kind of education enthusiast who gets a huge kick out of watching adult volunteers learn to take risks and build their own confidence alongside the younger participants/tutees. Above all else, though, is the kids! I love reading their super weird stories and watching their imaginations spark. Volunteering with them has made me a more creative and light-hearted human.
3. What do you do when you’re not at 826NYC?
During the work week, I manage 10 enrollment-based homework help and tutoring Out-of-School Time programs at New York Public Library branches in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. (I realize that it’s a busman’s holiday for me to volunteer at 826NYC.) I also train for distance events like marathons and half marathons, practice Yoga for Runners, and listen to an absurd amount of podcasts. I enjoy spending whatever free time remains with my friends–whether we’re exploring NYC’s incredible cultural offerings or simply lounging around our apartments with wine and delivery.
4. What advice would you give a new volunteer?
Take comfort in the fact that everyone else is or has been as nervous are you are! Don’t be afraid to take risks or admit when you don’t have all the answers. Lean into your beginner’s mind, and in doing so, you’ll be setting an important example for kids and adults alike.
5. What are your superpowers?
I have the super-stamina required to complete marathons (both of the Netflix and running varieties). I also have super STEM skills like problem-solving abilities and flexibility. Oh, and I’m not sure if this counts, but anyone who has volunteered in a workshop with me knows about my super strange condition where I can’t hear children who yell answers without first raising their hands and being called on. That one is more of a curse.