As an undergraduate student juggling courses in psychology, Jordan Vasquez volunteered as a teacher’s aide at Canal Alliance, helping immigrants learn to speak English. “I remember one day I was tired and stressed after a long day of school,” Jordan reflects. “But once I got to my ESL class it all went away. I left that night smiling because the students are awesome and lift your spirit. They really put in their best effort to learn English.”
Jordan was drawn to volunteering while taking a course called Service Learning at College of Marin. Through his college years, which overlapped with the onset of the pandemic, Jordan continued his service to the Canal community from which he grew up, moving from to the Social Services team.
“I had a client who needed a document to be translated urgently. When we finished, he asked how much he owed me. I told him our services were free. He was surprised, said I was a lifesaver, thanked me and left. Seeing how something small like translating can really help someone motivates me to keep volunteering.”
Jordan completed his degree in 2022, graduating as a transfer student from University of California at Santa Cruz. He has begun a promising career at Canal Alliance, serving as a mentor to newly arrived immigrant youth, part of the Opportunities for Youth (OFY) program.
Jordan’s work is two-fold: supporting youth by helping them to build connections, with the community, their Latinx roots, and each other, and supporting the mentors, adult volunteers who work one-on-one with the youth over a year.
Youth and mentors are paired for a year, with goals established that support the youth’s socio-emotional development. Jordan checks in with the mentors, to make sure things are on track and supports the youth by hosting field trips like kayaking and hiking, game nights, and a soccer team.
Isolation and disconnection can be challenges for newly arrived immigrant youth in Marin County. Jordan notes that, “It is a nice to help out people especially unaccompanied minors, teenagers, who don’t have much support and face language barriers. This program helps them get out of the house and make connections to their peers.”
“Volunteering has changed my perspective of how much help is needed in the community. I think volunteering has also made me a more compassionate person. I connect with the work that Canal Alliance does because my parents themselves are immigrants. When I help the clients, it reminds me of when I help out my parents with translating and filling out forms. So, when I volunteer it’s as if I’m helping my family.”
Jordan’s future is bright; he may take the path of research, counseling, or graduate school. For now, he is keeping his options open and dedicated to his work with immigrant youth.