EMC Volunteers of the Year

Elizabeth Ward is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools North Carolina.

What does it take to go from great volunteer, to exceptional volunteer? It certainly takes commitment and dedication, as well as a relentless spirit for improvement. But, most of all, it takes passion.

Every year, the Volunteer Center of Durham, located in the heart of Durham, North Carolina hosts a reception to honor volunteers from the Durham community who support other nonprofits and organizations through community service. This year at the 37th Annual Key Volunteer Recognition luncheon, a group of electrical engineers from EMC won the Team Volunteer of the Year award for their long-time commitment to Citizen Schools North Carolina.

This group of six volunteers from EMC Apex has taught seven consecutive electrical engineering apprenticeships at Lowe’s Grove Middle School. That means about 100 students served and over 1,500 hours volunteered. Nothing says dedication like those impressive numbers.

Jerry Diehl, fearless leader of the EMC volunteer team, said, “If I were to come up with one adjective to describe my experience with Citizen Schools, I couldn't. I'd need at least three: Amazing, Collaborative, Solid. Each semester has provided new experiences for us; new students, new Citizen Teachers and new projects. The Citizen Schools organization has allowed us to focus on what we are good at. This is what allows us to shine.”

This team of Citizen Teachers is certainly shining. They have managed to turn a complex field like electrical engineering into a fun and engaging learning experience. They’ve transformed a group of rowdy middle schoolers into knowledgeable engineering apprentices whose products are high quality, well- made, and functional. And they’ve done it seven times.

Each semester the team tweaks their already stellar, original curriculum. They creatively demonstrate how electrical engineering works in real life by starting with the electronics basics, then introducing electrical engineering common tools and processes. Diehl said, “My favorite part is building a bond with the kids. Each kid is different and we design our program with that in mind. I would have to say that the greatest moments occur when you see ‘that look’ in their eyes when you have connected with them.”

With those deep connections, and by applying what they’ve learned in class, the students create a product that they then present to their proud parents and teachers at the WOW! showcase. They’ve made solar powered cars, a fiber-optics sign and even an electronic noise monitor for the school cafeteria which is still used every day.

Hong Zou, EMC Citizen Teacher, said, “If you are interested in teaching, this is a great place to give it a try. Teaching at Citizen Schools is a very rewarding experience and it feels so good when we witness the development in our students. This is what our team members believe in, and we are all passionate about, and enjoy doing it. EMC and Citizen Schools make it all possible.”

This group of volunteer champions is more than deserving of this great recognition from the Volunteer Center of Durham. They are a hard-working, passionate team that has become a vital part of the Citizen Schools family. The Durham community, EMC, and of course, Citizen Schools, are lucky to have people like this who will stop at nothing to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.