Eden Volunteer of the Month - February 2019

Leonardo Leal at 801 Alma

We are so proud of the volunteers who choose to give their time to our affordable communities and residents. If you're interested in volunteering with Eden, please go to Volunteer with Eden Housing.

Below is Eden Housing's Volunteer of the Month

Name:  Leonardo Leal

Property:  801 Alma, Palo Alto

Why did you choose to volunteer with Eden Housing?  After moving back to the Bay Area, I desired to find a place where I could give back some of the learning that I have received at two of America's leading institutions to those that may not have access to avenues of knowledge. Once I started researching where I could accomplish that goal, I found that Eden Housing offered ESL teacher opportunities via VolunteerMatch, so I filled out the application and accepted the position.

What have you done as a volunteer?  Please describe your role and what you have worked on.  During my time as a volunteer I've A/B tested some of the practices I have learned in Design Thinking courses to the practice of teaching. For example, in one of my first classes I decided to implement a "free-learning model" where I would test the level of English fluency from my students by observing how they would respond to simple questions like: How was your day today?. On the following class I followed a more traditional model where I had set 3 key goals for the day, and I taught my students to write sentences using "verb + object" formulas and standard memorization quizzes. What I found from these two experiences is that my students wanted to be more fluent in common situations like calling their child's schoolmaster to report an absence or book a doctor's appointment, rather than more structured learning. This in turn made me change my classes to a more practical format that required less formal quizzes but highlighted the need to practice English in real-time.

What have you learned through your volunteer experience?  Have there been any surprises?  I've learned that communication is key in coordinating your time and schedule. I prioritize my day first around my work demands, but I try to have a "safe zone" marked on my calendar to prepare for my classes.

What do you like best about volunteering with Eden Housing?  I love seeing the smiles of my students and their children. Making others realize that they know more than they think they know is such a gratifying experience.

Are there any tips that you would share for someone else who is considering volunteering?  Patience and commitment are the two keys of being a volunteer. Sometimes one can fall in the feeling of not feeling "appreciated" but trust me, appreciation can take many forms. We have to be patient to see the fruits of your volunteer work and committed to see our volunteering as another important part of our days, not just a side project.

Tell us something we may not know about you. Any interesting facts you’d like to share about your life?  When I first came to the US in 2005 I did not speak English fluently and learned the language from scratch in middle school. While it was hard at first, I noticed that I had an avid fascination for video games and music videos allowed me to channel my passions with my love for learning a new language, so I started dissecting a lot of the songs I knew and translated them to Spanish or viceversa. This fun work on my free time and my daily ESL courses were fundamental in my quick growth: From being an ESL student in 2005 to entering a regular English class in 9th grade  and culminating with a score of 4 out of 5 on the AP English Language exam in 2010. I even started learning French on the side and I got a Modern Languages certification at Stanford in 2015 as part of my Bachelor's degree.


If you're interested in volunteering with Eden, please go to Volunteer with Eden Housing.




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