Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Velarde

Mary Velarde is a Literacy Coach with United Way’s Success by 6 programming.  In the Literacy Coaching Project, Classroom Coaches are placed in child care center classrooms serving children ages 3-5 for the length of a school year. The coaches are trained to deliver age-appropriate, engaging early math and literacy games and activities during the day– these are usually provided in small group or one-on-one settings.  As an AmeriCorps member, Mary has dedicated this year to supporting students in this program and it’s easy to see that she will continue to have a huge impact on our Austin community when she is done. 

We asked Mary about her experience as a volunteer, and she was happy to share her answers with us:

  1. Why do you think it is important to give back?
    I think it is important to give back to our community because it strengthens communities, improves the lives of the people we serve, and provides the tools they need to succeed in life.
  2. What inspires you to volunteer?
    I’m inspired to volunteer because I know I will make a positive difference in the lives of those I serve, which I believe will then have a greater impact for our community; it will strengthen our community. Another reason why I am inspired to volunteer is because it transforms my life and those I serve and it becomes a rewarding experience.  I like to encourage others to volunteer because through volunteer work, individuals are able to discover more about themselves that perhaps they were not aware of. In other words, volunteering is a learning opportunity that allows us to learn about ourselves and you also learn from those you help.
  3. What is your favorite thing about Austin?
    My favorite thing about Austin is the various activities that take place in Austin.  There is always something to do in Austin such as attend a festival, art museum, or ride your bike in one of the many trails.
  4. What do you hope to do when you are finished with AmeriCorps?
    I hope to continue giving back to my community. My hope is to serve my community as a translator/interpreter of the English language to Spanish language and vice versa.
  5. Tell us a funny or interesting story about working with kids in your role?
    There are various interesting stories, but one that stands out the most is when I am going to take a few students to do a small-group activity and the remaining students gather around me in a circle raising their hand requesting to go with me all at the same time. It makes me happy to see that they are so motivated to learn.

Please come join us for our upcoming Success by 6 themed Spring Day of Caring on May 5 and 6.  This year we expect hundreds of volunteers to take part in more than 40 projects that support our Austin community, and many of the child care centers that United Way for Greater Austin’s Literacy Coaches teach in.

Additionally, UWATX’s Success By 6 team is looking for energetic, positive and playful individuals who are passionate about helping disadvantaged young children get an equitable start in life. We have several exciting opportunities for the 2017-2018 school year – visit for more information