Friday, February 15, 2013

Volunteer Profile: Sara Linderman

Sara and Melissa 
Sara has been a volunteer mentor with SMART since the fall of 2011.  She was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would enable her to work with kids, and more importantly, would allow her to develop a deep, sustainable, one-on-one relationship. She came across SMART, and the more she learned about the program's mission, approach, and results, the more excited she became. Sara is mentoring Melissa, an 8th grader at The San Francisco School.  “Melissa is inspiring in her intelligence (particularly her math and science skills) - but then again, all the SMART scholars are.  Her immense creativity is her most defining characteristic.  She taught herself how to knit by watching YouTube videos. She makes friendship bracelets that she gives away to her friends. She has an insatiable appetite for reading - particularly Manga (Japanese comic books) - and she transports me into the books she reads through her stories.  And aside from the stories - she generally talks my ear off - she is even more loquacious than I was at her age, and I got in trouble constantly for talking in school.”

Sara and Melissa do their best to hang out twice per month.  “I love cooking - and this is a passion I've shared with Melissa, who has come to love it, too (she actually noted she might want to be a chef in a high school application essay) - so we do that together.  She's especially into baking (her favorite was making "stained glass cookies" last holiday season - she's still talking about it).  That said, we try to mix it up - once in a while, a movie; we've gone horseback riding; we've gone to House of Air, to the zoo - whatever sounds fun. I try to introduce Melissa to things she wouldn't otherwise get to do.”

One accomplishment that Sara is particularly proud of is her work with Melissa to complete her high school applications. “Melissa is Chinese - her parents were born there and speak (only) Cantonese at home - so while she's obviously fluent in English, she struggles with grammar, both written and spoken. She recognizes this weakness and is actively and continuously working to improve - when we're together, I gently point out errors and we talk grammar rules so she can keep improving. Melissa just finished up and submitted her high school applications, which required writing an extensive set of essays.  We collaborated on them over dinner a couple times, and then I worked with her through the editing process.  It was awesome to see her work so hard and do such a wonderful job on something that I know is a challenge for her - and to know that I played a (very small) part in her accomplishment.”

In addition to the amazing work Sara does as a mentor, Sara has also been instrumental in supporting SMART in other ways. She sits on the Volunteer Advisory Board CAP Committee, and in preparation for CAP’s upcoming career panel, Sara recruited 11 panelists in various professions to talk to our high school Scholars about career opportunities. Sara also participated in SMART’s recent Fundraising Challenge through Crowdrise raising $1,000 to support SMART programming. Thank you so much, Sara, for all you do for SMART and the students we serve!

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