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Volunteer Appreciation Month: Helen Poliner

Volunteer Appreciation Month: Helen Poliner

Apr 21, 2021 | ASPIRE, Volunteers

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month and to celebrate we will be featuring some of our dedicated volunteers. Today we are highlighting Helen Poliner.

Helen Poliner has been an invaluable resource for middle and high school students in FCA’s ASPIRE after-school program for the past five years. She began volunteering with FCA for a few days each week, helping mostly with math but also other subjects. Over the past year, she has been working with students virtually every day for 2-5 hours, and even works with students over the weekend if they have an upcoming test or need extra help.

In addition, Helen said being a first-generation American gives her insight into the barriers many ASPIRE students face.

“My parents didn’t know how to teach me. I had to learn on my own,” she said.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen has seen how inequities have impacted the students she mentors. One student didn’t have internet access so was completing his homework on his cell phone – work that required lab experiments and graphs. His ASPIRE caseworker was able to communicate his needs to the school when his parents weren’t able, and they worked together to secure internet access at home.

As the mother of two children, Helen said she occasionally gets to be a “mom” to the ASPIRE students, encouraging them and reminding them how much they are able to accomplish.

“They are smart and capable and should not let anyone tell them anything different,” she said. “The most important thing I always tell them is do it for yourself. Whatever you put in is whatever you get,” she said.