Senate District 6 Unsung Hero
Volunteer ESL Teacher at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
We often think about the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services during November and December of each year. But the Food Bank provides free emergency goods and services to 150,000 men, women and children each month, all year long. There are thousands of volunteers that fill dozens of roles at the Food Bank. Chariss Fong is one such volunteer. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) volunteer, she has been putting her expertise to good use for the many people in our community that want to learn English. There are many ways to volunteer for the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Check out this website for more information on how you can volunteer: www.sacramentofoodbank.org/volunteer-roles
Tell us a little about yourself:
I was born in Sacramento, grew up in the Midtown area and now live in the Pocket area. I am married and have four children and four grandchildren. I volunteer three times a week as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. I am also an Adult Literacy Tutor for the Sacramento Public Library.
How are you making a difference in your community?
Ever since I was a grad student, I had a strong desire to teach English, especially survival skills, to non-native adult immigrants so they could become more confident whenever they had to use English in their daily lives. Just over three years ago, I began to volunteer as an instructor in the ESL classes at the Sacramento Food Bank. I am impressed with this organization's goal to make their clients self-sufficient through a wide variety of classes. In addition to ESL, there are classes in GED, Technology and Citizenship as well as a variety of parenting classes.
What inspires your community efforts?
I loved all of my graduate classes at Sacramento State University and want to use what I learned to help English language learners. It makes me very happy to see my students continue to attend the other four levels of ESL classes after they pass my intro-level class. They are very appreciative, and it is so exciting and personally rewarding to see their English skills, both verbal and written, improve as the semester progresses.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the fact I was able to be a stay-at-home mom for our children. I truly enjoyed helping out at their schools whether that was being a room parent, correcting homework, driving on field trips, serving hot lunches, or counting pennies for the penny drive. Also, I was very proud that I went back to Sac State 23 years after I had received my B.A. and earned a M.A. in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Since my children were grown, I wanted to use my love of English in some way.
What kind of lessons do you work to instill in your kids?
Through my actions, I try to show them the need for compassion for others as well as community service which is good for the mind as well as the soul. Continuing education is also wonderful, whether that be a community college class (I took Cantonese a few years ago), dog obedience class (our new puppy now has much better manners) or even an exercise class.
If there is one problem in our community that you wish you could fix, what would it be?
While I think America is a wonderful melting pot of many cultures and languages, I also understand we often need to communicate with one another. Thus, I believe by teaching English to non-native speakers, I am empowering them so their daily lives here can be less stressful as their needs can be met when interacting with others, whether that is at the grocery store, bank or doctor's office.
How do you decompress?
I play piano to relax and take lessons to keep my brain mentally challenged plus I exercise six days a week to stay physically strong.