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Celebrating Support Systems

Categories: Activities, General, In the news, Volunteerism

Learning Ally Takes April to Recognize Invaluable Volunteers

By Michael Manzi

A photo collage of volunteers on zoom.As the adage goes, raising children “takes a village.” It’s no wonder, then, that providing literacy support to over 1.6 million students takes a community of over a thousand volunteers. These volunteers share a commitment to Learning Ally’s mission to solve the literacy crisis in the U.S. and to our unique approach Whole Child Literacy, which prioritizes an understanding of how each child learns. Volunteers at Learning Ally work hands-on, in a variety of roles ranging from the audiobook production process to school outreach and educator engagement, to create a system of support so that students can read, learn and thrive. 

Our library of high quality audiobooks ensure student engagement and reading success. Making a quality audiobook takes more than just a session in the studio. Before a project even reaches a microphone, it will already have passed through several waves of preparation. Volunteers help prepare audiobooks for recording, creating essential cheat sheets and outlines for narrators. Our volunteers perform research to provide essential information about characters, allowing the casting department to make sure they are choosing authentic performers who can accurately portray a variety of stories from a variety of cultural experiences. This work ensures that students from diverse backgrounds can hear and see themselves in the characters and in the stories they are reading. Once a book is recorded, it is passed through volunteers for post production and quality assurance. 

Thanks to the generosity of partnered corporations who share their time and employees with the cause, Learning Ally is able to train up to 200 new volunteers at once to help the quality assurance process run smoothly. New volunteers from corporate partnerships are given access to an exclusive catalog of un-released projects, ensuring quality control, smoother user experience and accessibility standards are met before the book hits the students’ bookshelves. 

As Learning Ally’s mission continues to grow and expand to meet the needs of struggling learners, our volunteer community has grown with us. "Our volunteer program has grown significantly over the past year” according to Maria Lelie, Community and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator.  “We're using volunteer support in ways we've never used before; in call campaigns, research, outreach, data entry. As needs in our community have evolved, Learning Ally volunteers have stuck by our side each step of the way, always willing to step up and lend a helping hand."

As the number of students increases and the volunteer community grows, so too does the quality of assistance that Learning Ally can provide. Volunteers play a vital role in supporting this network of students, parents, educators, and administrators. Many volunteers actively source contacts at high priority school districts while others support call campaigns that ensure students have continued access to Learning Ally’s solutions all year long. Volunteers are frequently responsible for welcoming new members to the educator community, and they assist at Learning Ally’s annual conferences by interacting and engaging with attendees who have come to learn more. 

This past year, volunteers further engaged schools by sending out more than 40 Valentines to educators around the country. Some volunteers even exercise their creative abilities by creating video trailers of books to excite students, and parents. These trailers provide a sneak preview of a book before it’s downloaded, piquing user’s interest before they even open the book.

With millions of students served, the impact of volunteers is felt and will continue to be felt around the country. Learning Ally extends their deepest appreciation to every person who has shared their time. As April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month, Learning Ally will continue to honor and recognize the hard work of volunteers throughout this month. Check out our Instagram accounts (@volunteernation_learningally and @learning_ally) for weekly spotlights of some exceptional volunteer projects. And if you’re a volunteer with Learning Ally, be sure to attend The Volunteer Appreciation Event on Thursday, April 21st. If you haven't had a chance to volunteer with Learning Ally, but would like to, connect with us on our volunteer web page to see how you can get involved!

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