After about five years as a volunteer, Barbara Sorenson is in high demand. The Reston resident volunteers twice a week at a homework assistance program run by Neighbors United / Vecinos Unidos (NUVU).
“Some students actually wait for her — they want her assistance,” said Vanessa Murphy, youth safe haven coordinator, NUVU.
A FORMER EDUCATOR, Sorenson has spent much of her life working with children. Sorenson, married 34 years to her husband, Russ, and mother of Nicholas, 28, was a teacher in Southern California for nine years, teaching social studies and American history.
Shortly after moving to Reston 12 years ago, she became a user services coordinator for a non-profit, ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education.
While at ERIC, where she worked for 11 years before retiring, a colleague, Janet Drill, encouraged her to volunteer with the homework program.
“The kids are great,” said Sorenson. “They are really bright and smart and funny.”
Through the homework program, Sorenson has built many long-lasting relationships. “It’s not just about helping with homework,” said Sorenson, emphasizing the importance of getting to know the students. “We try to help them learn and reach their full potential.”
Sorenson remembered the first little girl she helped as a volunteer. “She was a first grader and she was just learning to read,” said Sorenson. “Eventually she really didn’t need our assistance anymore. She became such a strong student.” Now, the same student often comes by just to say hello.
RECENTLY, SORENSON volunteered to be on the board of NUVU. “I try to keep the database updated and I’m the grants coordinator,” said Sorenson.
One of Sorenson’s friends said it’s no wonder that she has gotten more and more involved over the years.
“Barbara is the kind of person who quickly asks how can this be better or how can we get more grants to expand our reach,” said Judi DeCarme, who has known Sorenson since 1987.
Earlier this year, Sorenson’s contributions to the community were recognized when Volunteer Fairfax nominated her for a Direct Service in Education Award. While she did not receive the award, being nominated is considered a great honor.
“She’s been a great resource,” said Murphy, on all that Sorenson has done for NUVU.
It’s a lesson long known by her friends. “Once you get to know Barbara, she’ll be your friend for life,” said DeCarme. “She has boundless energy and is willing to devote everything when she gets involved in a project.”
Called a “very reliable” volunteer, Sorenson missed a few sessions a couple of weeks ago when she got sick. “When I got back a young man said, ‘Are you done being sick?’” said Sorenson. “They miss you and they want to know you’re all right — I think that’s nice.