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This has been an… unusual year in many ways. We've all faced some new challenges and, for the most part, we've found ways to overcome them and continue our mission of helping students to reach their potential. The end of a year is always a reflective time, but we can also look forward to our plans for 2021, and beyond.
Learning Ally offices are officially closed from December 25th through January 1st in observance of winter holidays. Though you are welcome to keep working on your projects, contact from staff and other volunteers may be interrupted or infrequent. Check in with staff and other volunteers before the holiday break begins if you need to confirm schedules ahead of time.
We pride ourselves on the fact that we are always changing, and for the better. When Learning Ally began, we served a very specific need for a very specific audience - a niche of sorts. As we learned more about the need for accessible books, we expanded the content we offered and communities we serve. Today doctors and educators are learning more and more about how early literacy develops. They are doing more to recognize needs and provide accommodation long before the student becomes frustrated by classroom learning. At Learning Ally, we are looking for ways that our tools and our volunteers can help children as young as pre-school age.
We've used the phrase "lifelong learners" to mean those who are still learning from our books even after they have earned their degrees. I think we should reconsider that phrase. We need to recognize that a student's learning from pre-school on; through elementary, high school, college, and beyond is the real lifelong learning. When we can provide for all those stages of growth we are fulfilling our mission to provide true access to those who need it.
Next year you'll be hearing more about "Learning Ally Audiobook Solution 2.0," as we revise our apps and form new partnerships with organizations like Square Panda to find better ways to help. There will be new opportunities for volunteering as well. We'll still be recording our audiobooks, but as we expand programs to work with more teachers and parents we want to find volunteers who can help us with these efforts. More updates will be shared as they become available!
We hope you can enjoy the winter holidays while staying safe during these challenging times. Please join us on our volunteer Facebook page to share your plans for this year, or your memories of holidays past. Photos of cookies, gingerbread houses and outrageous sweaters are always encouraged.
Melissa K., Colin S., Elli S., Socorro G., Barbara M., Dianne F., Janeanne R-K., Patricia M-V., Noemi A., Debra F., Sean O., Sue B., Gouri G., Katsy J., Jaclyn D., Patrick K., Julia S., Lena H., Neha N., Yannie W., Aditya U., Rhonda G., Kathleen E., Emma B., Kendra Y., Lamar J., Andrea K.
Autumn is always a busy time, often busier than we expect it to be. Schools are all in session, October comes along with its holidays and soon we're prepping for family gatherings. 2020 and the COVID-19 outbreak have changed much of that however. Though we now need to spend those holidays on extended Zoom calls or meeting with only small groups, we should still take that time to share our appreciation for one another. Let these days be times of refreshment and renewal
It seems they come along a little earlier every year. Remember to inform Learning Ally staff when you will be unavailable to volunteer, for holidays, or any other reason. We can keep our scheduling flexible but we can only do that with notice when things change.
You might have heard me say this before, but the best volunteering is regular volunteering. Learning Ally's volunteer programs are unlike most other volunteer opportunities. They call for some very specialized skills, an investment in equipment, and adherence to some unique rules and guidelines. So how do our volunteers consistently work though these challenges? By working consistently. Repetition is the key to mastery. When you sit down at your computer or stand up at your microphone every day, you're practicing the skills of audiobook production.
When you engage with our guidelines often you internalize them, meaning less time spent looking up a half-remembered rule. Narrating every day builds up your vocal stamina and refines your technique. Likewise, steady listening trains your ears, so that you build an awareness of sound and an audio intelligence from day to day. Even if you're not "working" on a Learning Ally project, you're building those skills and adding to your knowledge whenever you engage with audiobooks.
By making volunteering a part of your routine, and sticking to that routine, your good work becomes better. That's why I'll always recommend that you make that schedule and stick by it. Sure, you'll need a break every now and again, and we know that it's demanding work. But not only does volunteering become more rewarding, it also becomes more fun.
Due to some schedule conflicts with Learning Ally all-staff meetings, there will be no Office Hours meeting on Thursday, November 12th. In addition, Office Hours will not happen on The 26th in recognition of the Thanksgiving holiday.
But it's not all bad news! We're adding another opportunity to join us for an Office Hours meeting on Mondays. Beginning on Monday the 9th, there will be an Office Hours time, earlier in the day. We hope that this additional time will allow more volunteers to join us for these informal face-to-face meetings. Bring your questions about volunteering and book production and our staff will be on hand to provide answers. You can find more information on the volunteer training website and in updates in Twist and hangouts.
Our October Volunteer Nation Live webinar is available in recorded form on the Resources page of the Volunteer Portal and on our YouTube page. We urge you to take the time to check out this excellent event. Our guest speaker Preston Radtke shared his experiences as a blind student and as an ambassador for our College Success Program. If you want to know more about what Learning Ally is doing to support the blind community in the halls of higher learning, you'll find the answers to many of your questions.
And as always, we invite further questions from you. Reach out to us through the Volunteer Nation thread on Twist and we'll bring your questions to our panelists and speakers. Be sure to share your suggestions for other subjects as well, and they may become the topic of a future Volunteer Nation Live event!
Rowel L.S.Y., Metsha R-S., Christina O., Andrew C., Jarrett W., Keila S., Gina R S., Kaneesha W., Charvella C., Letitia G., Tyedanita McL., Tony D., Earl F., Dakota H., Vania S., Jo A., Georgia D-B., Marla B., Kyle B., Ruth A., Jacob R., Iara C-C., Joey F., Patricia M., Diane F.