Elizabeth DouglassHow Volunteering Has Impacted Me to the CORE

By: Elizabeth Douglass In: Education| Nonprofits| Social Media

19 Dec 2011

July was an incredibly busy month for me this year. Not only did I marry my best friend, I also started working as a volunteer teacher for Computer Community Outreach and Education (Computer CORE), a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Va.  Computer CORE is a place where low-income, (often-times) first-generation immigrant adults can learn career development skills and earn basic computing school credits through a six-month class accredited by Northern Virginia Community College.

Of late, Computer CORE primarily draws students from nations with emerging technological infrastructures, such as Ethiopia, Guatemala, Iran, and Nigeria. Yet, in my time as a computing teacher’s assistant and career strategies instructor-as well as in conversations I’ve had with returning volunteers-I’ve noticed that our students are far more proficient in today’s social media venues than in proper e-mail etiquette with potential employers.

I might find the nuances between chronological-based and skills-based resumes intriguing, but my students are more interested in scoping out a family member’s baptismal photos on Facebook. So, as teachers, we try to adapt, to flex our creative muscles, and to leverage the similarities and connections between social media and workforce development to encourage deeper comprehension and expertise for their forays into the workplace.

Our students are encouraged to “own” their experience with Computer CORE. They are well aware of their teachers’ time commitment to CORE, they interact with CORE sponsors/business advisers, and they sacrifice two evenings per week from work or family to participate in the classroom. Gradually, they become mini-philanthropists as they encourage their friends, coworkers, family members, and others to apply to CORE.

In turn, numerous CORE graduates further their education by virtue of their NVCC-accredited CORE courses and their new awareness of career options. Other graduates return to speak at graduation, teach their family members and coworkers these newly acquired computing skills, and/or offer monetary donations. It’s inspiring to me, a second-generation Nigerian-American, that students with such various ethnic backgrounds, educational skills, and life hardships can work and learn together in a classroom and not leave the lessons learned at the door.

CORE partners such as the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia, Microsoft, and the Gwendolyn and Morris Cafritz Foundation build upon this circle of giving with their funds and their time. Representatives from these and other CORE supporters volunteer as business advisers and conduct practice interview sessions, provide student internship/full employment opportunities, donate computers, and more. They become engaged partners in CORE’s community, and the ripple effect continues.

I believe CORE is a refreshing model of what engaged philanthropy can look like in a local community with international impact. As a burgeoning technologist, the initial work of CORE founder Debra Roepke inspires me to enhance my community in a lasting way. Is there an inspiring philanthropic community in your area looking for your time and your talents?

Elizabeth Douglass is the web services associate at the Council on Foundations.

1 Response to How Volunteering Has Impacted Me to the CORE

Deb Roepke

January 23rd, 2012 at 11:29 am

Thank you for all you do for CORE’s students and for this article. CORE would not exist today but for the active engagement of dedicated volunteers like you.

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