908 Meridian Street
P.O. Box 70750
Nashville, TN 37207
Check out Better Tomorrows on VolunteerMatch.
Like many young people, Sarah Knippel spent her first few university years not exactly sure where she was heading or what she'd be doing when she got there. As an English major, she knew she wanted to support language and literacy efforts — just wasn't sure how.
Knippel's situation changed at the end of her third year, when a professor challenged the class to stop theorizing about US immigration policy and do something.
"Instead of only hearing about the problems that immigrants and refugees face coming here or their impact on society, he wanted us to take action," she recalled. "It wasn't like any other class I had ever taken!"
Encouraged to find a meaningful way to get involved, Knippel volunteered at an adult education center in central Minneapolis as a tutor for men and women who had fled civil war in East Africa. Most of the time she worked with a Somali woman twice her age who had never graduated high school because of the strife in her home country. The woman's passion and eagerness to learn made a huge impact on her.
"I learned that the roles of teacher and learner are never static. With every new English phrase she would teach me a simple Somali phrase. She made me Somali food and taught me about her family, her job, and her travels," Knippel said.
As the English lessons went on, Knippel herself was growing more inspired each day, and more assured that she had found her true path.
After graduation, she immediately applied for service with AmeriCorps, which provides a modest education stipend in exchange for a year of service. Within a few months, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to manage volunteer recruitment efforts for Better Tomorrows, a faith-based learning center for adults who need help with GED preparation, basic literacy, computer skills, and parenting.
"I loved doing volunteer work, and so working with others who share that passion seemed a natural fit for me," she said. "Volunteers have a selfless passion to improve the world that transcends political and religious beliefs, race, sexual orientation, and so many other boundaries."
She says Better Tomorrows depends on VolunteerMatch every day; in fact, the organization's posted opportunities have led to more than 35 referrals from volunteers.
"I didn't know where to find volunteers when I first came here," she said. "But my postings produce energetic and committed people who were really interested in my organization's cause."