Volunteer Stories

  • Testimonial
    Phyllis G. Andrews,

    Ten years ago, when my son was graduating from high school, I looked for a way to continue being involved with the Durham schools.  I have a BS in Chemistry and a PhD in Pharmacology, and was a biochemist at EPA before leaving paid employment to stay home with my children.  I had always enjoyed teaching and tutoring, and had done some math tutoring when my children were young.  I think I have an ability to make difficult math and science problems seem a little easier, because I use many tools and mental tricks to make them easier for myself.  It is immensely satisfying to see math become less mysterious to a student, and to see the students acquiring skills that will help them in their daily lives, like being able to quickly estimate how much a 20% discount will save them.  I also enjoy interacting with the teachers and other tutors at Achievement Academy, and I like the feeling that we are all working together for a good purpose.  As a side benefit, when I help a student with reading and social studies, I often learn something new myself, and it is always interesting to share with the other tutors what we learned today while we were "teaching."  If most of the reason I started volunteering was to do something good and be involved with the community, a big reason I continue coming to Achievement Academy is because it is very mentally stimulating for me.

  • Testimonial
    Bernie Stewart,

    • Retired Registered Nurse and Legal Nurse Consultant
    • Studied at Rockingham Community College, NCCU, Duke University
    • Vietnam War Veteran, United States Navy
    • Senior Corps Volunteer assigned to AAD 3 years ago
    My reason for remaining at the AAD is twofold: the reward of watching students learn, grow, and achieve; and knowing that in a very small way, I contributed to that outcome. "The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice." Brian Herbert, Author

  • Susan Trabka,

    My background is in special education. I worked in several different programs for special needs students. When I retired I was a teacher at the UNC Hospital School, working mostly with teens recovering from accidents or injuries. I especially enjoy working with students who are overcoming obstacles, or haven't always taken a straight path through school. My dad taught me that learning is something you can do in any situation. It helps you face a crisis and gives you a healthy escape from your troubles. Volunteering at AAD for the past 4 years gives me a personal way to share that habit of learning. (It's also great exercise for an aging brain...) I ask students to connect new information with their own experiences. We get to know each other by sharing stories about these connections. I think that relationship supports learning and encourages students to keep trying. It's a real pleasure to see them succeed, not just for themselves. Their accomplishments are a gift to our whole community.

  • Testimonial
    Dan Oldman,

    I started out hating grade school and not doing well. With the help of others, I eventually worked my way to getting a masters in Computer Science followed by a 35-year career as a software engineer and manager. Now that I'm retired, I want to help young people as others helped me. I spend my free time at Achievement Academy of Durham where I started as a tutor. Lately I have been busy as board treasurer and helping with business operations. I enjoy helping the AAD students succeed in any way I can.

  • Testimonial
    Emily Levy,

    I grew up near Boston, MA and went to Williams College in western Massachusetts. After studying animal behavior and neuroscience in college (rats, pollinators, and lemurs – oh my!), I did clinical neuroscience research for two years in Connecticut, working with people with autism and schizophrenia. After that, I worked on my outdoor science education skills as an AmeriCorps field intern and instructor at Teton Science Schools in Wyoming. In 2016, I moved to Durham to start a Biology PhD program at Duke. I study how environmental and social factors affect wild baboon behavior, survival, and reproduction. I’ve been helping at AAD since February 2017. I’m passionate about working to close education gaps, and that passion has led me to help students with literacy and SAT/GED prep tutoring in Connecticut and now here in Durham. I’m also helping to create and lead GALS, a free 2-week outdoor summer science program for high-school girls (click here for our website).