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National Volunteer Month: Meet Mary Kelly, Volunteer Tutor

Mary Kelly has been a tutor at CIANA’s Elementary Afterschool Program since May 2020, early in the pandemic. Mary joined our team of volunteer tutors when we were still bringing our programs online and figuring out whether we could keep serving our clients as meaningfully from a distance as we had in person.

We found that running our tutoring programs virtually ensures that students get consistent, one-on-one homework help, and are still able to improve their academic skills and performance, thanks to volunteers like Mary. Keep reading to learn about Mary and her experience tutoring our students.


How long have you been volunteering with CIANA?

Come this May, I will have been volunteering with CIANA for two years.

How did you decide to tutor at CIANA’s afterschool program?

It was May of 2020 and I was looking for a way to volunteer during the pandemic. I started googling different ways I could volunteer virtually, and I came upon CIANA. After expressing my interest in being a volunteer for the program, I was interviewed by Sophie (CIANA’s education coordinator) who offered me the tutoring position.

Overall, what has your experience working with immigrant children/children of immigrants been like?

My experience working with immigrant children has been extremely fulfilling. My grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe after WWII. They struggled with the language barrier and had to learn English quickly. I also know my mother had a different childhood than most kids her age. Tutoring has given me the ability to help an immigrant child who, just like my grandparents, is trying to do the best they can in this country.

What are some challenges (and advantages) of tutoring virtually?

A challenge of tutoring virtually is that it’s hard to explain things using just words. I try to draw/write things out for him using notability; however, it requires time and is a bit cumbersome to switch who’s sharing their screen. Also, it’s hard to help him with his homework that’s not virtual. For example, if he's reading a book for school, he has to take a picture of every page of the book and then share the pictures with me. An advantage to tutoring is that it saves time for both of us. Hamza and I don’t have to commute to a location to tutor. Also, an advantage of tutoring virtually is that I would’ve never been able to participate in this program if it had not been virtual. I live in Ohio and CIANA is based out of New York; therefore, I’m thankful the program is virtual so that I’ve been able to be a part of it.

Is there a particular subject that you enjoy tutoring the most?

I enjoy tutoring math the most. Growing up I always enjoyed that subject in school, and I enjoy being able to teach and share my love of math with the student I help.

Are there any notable memories you have had with students in the program?

There aren’t any specific memories in particular. However, I have tutored the same boy for the two years I’ve been with CIANA, and it’s been a great experience to see his growth in school. He’s become much more self-sufficient with his schoolwork and better with his English since the time we started together.

What impact do you hope you have left on students you have worked with?

I hope that by tutoring, I was able to take away some of the challenges that come with being an immigrant. I also hope that I was able to foster a passion for learning in the student I helped.


We want to thank Mary for the academic support she has shown to her students and the consistency in her dedication to being a part of our programming throughout the pandemic. Thank you Mary!

For current volunteer opportunities at CIANA, please visit


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