United Way of Southeast Alaska Volunteer Spotlight
FROM CAREER TO VOLUNTEER
Pam Watts, Volunteer Reading Tutor
By: Geoff Kirsch
For nearly three-decades Pam Watts helped people for a living. Now that she's retired, she does it for the common good.
"Engaging with the volunteerism is where my heart is," she says.
Pam spent more than 30 years as a professional counselor, the last 25 in clinical supervision and management of mental illness and addiction programs. These days, she volunteers with United Way's Learn United Reading Tutors.
"I always thought I'd tutor reading when I retired," says Pam. "And here I am."
For one, she's an avid reader, herself. But Pam also brings lessons from her long career.
"Reading holds so much value for future adults in all parts of their lives," she explains, listing literacy among the primary challenges faced by those she served.
"Kids who do better in school are far more resilient facing the emotional challenges of growing up," she says. "Early intervention, especially in reading, gives them the best chance to be successful and happy."
Enter Learn United Reading Tutor Program. During 30-minute sessions once a week at Gastineau Community School, Pam helps to provide constructive guidance, positive encouragement and a literacy-rich setting for at-risk early elementary students.
"Basically, it's about giving young readers a little extra individual attention, outside the pressure of the classroom," she says. "If one person believes in a child, it can impact her entire life."
Learn United originated in 2013 as part of the United Way of Southeast Alaska's "Literacy By Third Grade" campaign, as well as the national United Way "Million Reading Tutors" campaign, which seeks to engage one million new volunteer readers, tutors, and mentors, by the end of the decade.
For Pam, tutoring represents the perfect volunteer opportunity-flexible, exciting, highly rewarding-and she strongly encourages others to join her, if not with Learn United, then any of the United Way's various ongoing volunteer efforts across Southeast Alaska. (For full listings, visit getconnected.unitedwayseak.org)
"One volunteer makes a huge difference," she recommends. "Find something you like and jump in with both feet."