Jessie, a highly valued VAL volunteer, lives on a farm in Cavendish, Vermont, with a menagerie of animals–horses, dogs, cats and chickens. She is married and the proud mother of two daughters, ages 11 and 19.
Cavendish is worth a mention. This small town in Windsor County is where Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent twenty years living in exile. The townspeople respected—and protected—the Nobel Laureate’s privacy as he wrote groundbreaking works about life in the Soviet Union. Cabot’s bucolic setting provided the peace and safety the former political prisoner and survivor of the Gulag needed to deeply engage his craft.
Jessie grew up in Washington, D.C. She spent the summer of 1998 in Vermont as a camp counselor where she met her future husband. She learned she loved working with children and this inspired her to earn an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. A two-year stint in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica sharpened her Spanish skills before she returned to the U.S. to further her studies, earning a graduate degree in Early Childhood Education.
“I was an at-home parent for a long time,” Jessie said with a smile.
She embraced the gift of time with her daughters, engaging in their activities and actively volunteering in their preschool and elementary school. She taught Spanish in the schools as a volunteer for several years.
Jessie shared that she experiences a visual impairment. She was working with her case manager at the Vermont Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired in the summer of 2020 when they recommended she consider volunteering at VAL.
“I was looking for ways to use my Spanish,” Jessie said. “A student needed a world language credit and I was able to help.”
Since working with that initial student, Jessie has continued to volunteer at VAL, forging connections with other students—virtually, during the pandemic. She helped another student earn their language credit by teaching them Spanish. Jessie also worked with a woman from Peru for three months, helping her become familiar with English translations of study materials for an LNA class.
Jessie currently enjoys working with an English Language Learning student from Vietnam. Her support goes beyond language skills. She helps the student navigate a new culture in the role of an informal guide or advisor.
“I appreciate the chance to learn about somebody else’s life journey and to be able to share a bit about myself while creating a bond,” Jessie said. “I’m here to help support the students’ needs. It feels good to be a volunteer, to be able to unconditionally give of oneself without any expectation except for the relationship itself.”
“Since I have worked as a volunteer for VAL, I have observed that the staff and administration care enormously about providing adults with opportunities to complete their high school education that they missed out on for a variety of reasons,” Jessie said. “This type of opportunity empowers a person’s heart, mind and soul! I admire VAL’S dedication to all their students!”
“Jessie is an exceptional person, teacher, and volunteer. She goes above and beyond for her students and VAL,” said Ashley Dailey, Director of VAL-Windsor County. “We are so lucky to know and work with her. Thanks, Jessie!”