From our Volunteers: Steph Garber

I still remember getting an email a few years ago with several new volunteer opportunities which might be of interest to me to do at home. I scanned down and came across College Guild, which I needed to research since I had never heard of them before. What a wonderful find to learn of the good work they do.


Having just studied our penal system in Florida where I live, I had an interest which I would not have held before, since I had previously been very naïve about our prison population. So I thought, why not give this a try?


The training was very straightforward and simple in order to become a reader. Every 5 to 6 weeks I would get an email with a student’s written replies to questions posed by the College Guild program after completing one of the units within the course guide. It was made clear to me that I should be encouraging the student so that they will continue to study. With communications from the College Guild organization, I soon learned it was very valuable to the lives of those behind bars. Every month I got a different student and almost always, a different subject.


My first year I read about art, including Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and William Turner, all artists about whom I knew absolutely nothing! I learned right along with the student. Some months I would get gardening units, including Japanese gardens, herbs and history as well as trees and shrubs. Once again, I was exposed to a topic that would teach me at the same time as I read student work. At the age of 66, the reason I didn’t know about any of these things was because frankly, they didn’t interest me too much. It was good for my brain to get educated about something, but I was ready for a change.