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Be the Change: A Volunteer Spotlight

5 December 2016

Established by the United Nations, International Volunteer Day (IVD) falls on is December 5 each year. It is a time to celebrate volunteerism: highlighting individuals who regularly give their time, energy, and skills to create positive change in their neighborhoods or abroad.


The Office of Adult Education is especially excited to celebrate our adult education volunteers who work at over 30 different adult education providers across the city to offer basic tutors, English as a Second Language (ESL), test preparation and help prepare adult learners to enter post secondary education and new jobs. By showing up and stepping up, volunteers are inspiration in action. We would not be able to support the thousands of adult learners or hard working programs in the city without our volunteers.

Today we join forces to offer a #GlobalApplause to volunteers everywhere as part of International Volunteer Day on December 5th. We especially, we want to applaud our amazing adult education volunteer tutors and mentors for the contribution they make to improving the lives of residents in Philadelphia like Michael Z.  We applaud his commitment and contribution as volunteer tutor at one of our partners: Hope Partnership for Education.

Michael Z is a busy man. He’s a consultant, environmental scientist, educator and active member on multiple boards – not to mention being a parent. Yet, he has made volunteering with adult learners an important part of his life. For Michael, the twice a week, hour commute to volunteer from his New Hope home, is more than worth it.


“Without an education, you have less opportunities. By giving an adult a second chance to complete their education, you’re really giving them an opportunity to positively change their life,” Michael explains.

With a passion for teaching and volunteering, Michael has performed humanitarian work across the globe. He holds a PhD in environmental science and an M.S. in Education from Drexel University, and is a certified biology instructor for grades 7 – 12. Currently, Michael tutors at Hope Partnership for Education, where he has been a volunteer for two years. The OAE volunteer and myPLACE℠ partner, provides the North Philadelphia community with supportive educational opportunities. For Pam Carunchio, Hope Partnership for Education’s Director of Adult Education & Strategic Partnerships, it’s important that adult learners are never in classes of over 15 students and that they receive individualized learning plans to fit their needs and busy schedules.

“Our volunteer teachers are the backbone of our program. We created our curriculum project to ask for their guidance and input to our planning process, and document the great work they do with our students on a daily basis. In this way we can build on their success together.” says Pam.

Michael says if someone is considering volunteering with adult learners, their motivation needs to be right. “You will never play a more challenging, yet rewarding role as this one. “If we all strive to make a difference for one person, think of how we can collectively enact change for many people.”

Adult learners have years of experience and a wealth of information. Tutors help to improve skills, encourage students to develop effective learning habits and provide tools required to persevere in their studies, all creating the ability to face challenging situation with confidence. By building connections and supporting the delivery of high quality services for adult learners, volunteering makes a significant contribution to our community and economy.


At Hope Partnership for Education, Michael teaches two 90-minute science classes where he is able to give individualized attention to adult learners like Demetrius, who is currently studying for the GED® exam, “I’m getting my GED® so I can be more successful, for a better future.”

For many adult learners, this is the first time they’ve had the opportunity to work one-on-one with a tutor or in a small group setting, giving them the chance to identify and focus on their strengths as learners, and not on the gaps in their knowledge.

A lot of times we hear, “I want to help, but I don’t have experience teaching. I can’t help an adult learn a new skill.” You’d be surprised that this isn’t the case. With our in-depth 3-week training courses, tutors not only gain a working knowledge of the subject matter, but a concrete knowledge of facilitation. This allows for our tutors to direct students in assessing their knowledge gaps and seek out answers on their own, explains Catalina Gonzalez, OAE’s Volunteer Programs Manager.

OAE provides four types of volunteer training offered in both online and blended formats; Basic, English as a Second Language (ESL), Adult Secondary Education (ASE)  Tutor Trainings and Mentor Training to prepare volunteers to meet the various needs of adult learners.

Volunteers are matched and placed with one of OAE’s 35 volunteer partner locations throughout Philadelphia. Regularly offered professional development, additional trainings and backing from the Philadelphia Adult Literacy Alliance ensure that tutors and mentors are continuously supported in the delivery of quality services.

Estimated 550,000 adults in the City who need to develop their workforce literacy skills and prepare to compete in our knowledge-based economy or to complete successfully postsecondary training and education. Reality for many adults means struggling to read a menu, navigating the city, applying for jobs and helping their children with homework. By donating your time as a volunteer to tutor an adult learner, you’re investing in Philadelphia: it gets us one step closer to a better place to live and a stronger economy.

To find out more on volunteer opportunities with the Office of Adult Education for the City of Philadelphia visit or contact phone #

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