In continuation of our conversations with our 10-plus-year volunteers, we sat down with Jerry Waxman. Jerry, a retired IT consultant, has been with New Haven Reads for almost the entirety of our 15 years. He’s done everything around this place so to speak.
NHR: When and why did you first start volunteering with NHR?
Jerry: I was here, before there was tutoring, giving out books. I started way back then because they needed the tutors. I’ve done a lot of different things here. I’ve been here a long, long time. I get along with the kids.
NHR: What keeps you coming back?
Jerry: It’s a good place to hang out. The people are nice, the kids are good. I meet nice families I would never meet elsewhere. I would never be around any of these people. I run into them all over the city now. When you’ve been here for a while you see people everywhere.
NHR: From your personal perspective, how has NHR changed over the last 10 years?
Jerry: It is big now. Its like a real big organization. Four locations, hundreds of kids. It just got bigger. I hate to say real but that’s what it is. It’s a real organization now.
NHR: What kind of impact do you believe that NHR has on our community and the city of New Haven?
Jerry: Kids are now in college. I would guess that some of the kids who are now in college would not be in college if they had not come through New Haven Reads. I don’t have any statistics to prove that but I know there are quite a few in college now. And I know they’ve been affected by this place.
For the ones who keep coming it’s really helpful. During the time they’re here they see a different world. They get mentored by students, college kids. They would never meet Yale students. They wouldn’t have a clue of what is out there in the world because they’re not exposed to it. They see all of these different types of people. All groups, colors, races. They see all of these people who they would never come into contact with. That’s an important part of what goes on. The mentoring. I think a lot of the effect is just being here. It can be pretty limiting when you’re growing up in the city.
I know we’ve also made a difference in what a lot of the college kids who volunteer here are doing. Some of them have become teachers or social workers from having been here and having dealt with the kids. Now they know they can deal with kids. You never know when you’re that age. When you’re in college you don’t know what you want to do or what things are. But then they spend time here. People just like this place. How can you not? How can you not want to teach kids to read.
NHR: What impact, if any, do you feel that volunteering at NHR has had on you?
Jerry: Its probably made me a better person. A nicer person.