Volunteer Stories: Judy

Judy arrived at work one day to learn that for the first time in 23 years, she wouldn’t be returning to her desk. She had been laid off. Still several years away from retirement, Judy unceremoniously and unexpectedly had to find herself a new beginning. Unbeknownst to her, she would find it on a bulletin board in a coffee shop.

In fact, she saw ONE TO ONE’s poster advertisement three times before finally calling the office and asking how she could become a literacy tutor. Less than one year later, Judy is now on her way to beginning a brand-new career—one, she says, she never would have considered if not for ONE TO ONE.

In November 2017, Judy became the first ONE TO ONE volunteer at Moody Elementary. It had been years since she had been in a school—she couldn’t help but feel a little bit nervous. But before long, she started noticing a difference in her students. After spending just a few weeks reading with Judy, students that were once shy and nervous when reading were becoming happy and confident and excited to see her. Even teachers began stopping her in the hallway to tell her that the children she was reading with were improving. Reading aside, Judy—who doesn’t have children of her own—has loved getting to know the students.

“I love learning about their lives, the camps they’re going to, what they’re doing over the weekend,” she says, recalling a particularly special connection with one student who always asked Judy when she’d see her next.

Working with children was a far cry from Judy’s former profession in the corporate financial world, but she knew she had finally found her calling.

After a couple months volunteering at Moody Elementary, she met the school’s education assistants, school staff who provide individual in-classroom support to students with special needs. It was a career she had never heard about before, and realized that the difference she made as a ONE TO ONE volunteer could become a full-time job. The school principal happily agreed to let Judy job-shadow the education assistants to see if it would be the right path for her.

And Judy was right: she loved it. After nearly 30 years, Judy will soon be returning to school at Stenberg College’s education assistant program.

“When I saw what my work with children was doing and how it made me feel to do it, going back to school was a no-brainer,” she says.

Unfortunately, Judy’s new school schedule means she will no longer be volunteering for ONE TO ONE. But Judy says she will always be grateful for stumbling upon that fateful advertisement in September.

“It’s given me some direction to a new life I had never even thought of before,” she says. “If it wasn’t for ONE TO ONE, I wouldn’t have discovered this possibility.”

Judy had her last volunteer shift at Moody Elementary in June. One of her students began crying when Judy told her that she wouldn’t be coming back—a thought that brought Judy to tears as well. But knowing that she has years of connections like this ahead of her, Judy’s more excited than ever.

“One door closed and many, many more opened,” Judy says. “I learned it’s never too late to make a career change for something you care about.”

ONE TO ONE is a free literacy tutoring program backed by a mission to help children develop literacy skills to last a lifetime. Students who need a reading-skills boost are selected by their teachers and meet two to three times a week with a ONE TO ONE volunteer tutor. For 30 minutes at a time, they read in an environment where it is okay to take risks, make mistakes and learn at their own pace.

We’d love to hear your ONE TO ONE stories! Drop us a line at contactus@one-to-one.ca