April 19, 2021

Volunteer Spotlight: How volunteerism enhanced my skills during the pandemic

As TGR Foundation celebrates National Volunteer Appreciation Week, the TGR Learning Lab shines a spotlight on Learning Lab volunteer Nancy Rich Villa. Nancy’s experience as a volunteer with virtual STEM classes reconfirmed her decision to pursue a career supporting underserved youth.

A mother and a full-time student, Nancy will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology Science from the University of California, Irvine this June. She plans to attend graduate school at Cal State Fullerton to work toward a master’s degree in social work.

Here she shares her experience being a virtual volunteer with the TGR Learning Lab’s instructional staff and community of students during the pandemic.


TGR Foundation: What are three words that best describe you?

Nancy Rich Villa: Dependable, hardworking, empathic


TGRF: What do you like to do in your free time?

NRV: In my free time, pre-COVID, I enjoyed going to the movies and the beach with my daughter.


TGRF: Why did you decide to volunteer at the foundation?

NRV: I decided to volunteer with TGR Foundation from September 2020 to December 2020 as part of my field study for UCI for a few reasons.  I wanted to work with children, and after interviewing with Jose Rivera, the Volunteer Coordinator, I respected the vision and commitment to the community. Contributing even a small part to the TGR Learning Lab was vital to me because it directly impacted a child’s life in my community.


TGRF: Describe your day-to-day duties as a TGR Learning Lab volunteer.

NRV: When I volunteered with the TGR Learning Lab, I supported six online Zoom classes, including Marine Science and Physical Education. My day started with checking in with the teacher about 5 -10 minutes before class to discuss the day and then we would welcome the kids. I would take attendance and monitor the chat. In the P.E. classes, I would try my best to follow the exercises and be an example so the kids would have another adult to follow. My job was to assist the teachers in any way that would help the class run more smoothly.


TGRF: Is there a particular moment that made you feel like your work as a volunteer at the TGR Learning Lab was meaningful and rewarding?

NRV: I think volunteering began to be meaningful and rewarding when the kids started conversing with me before and after class. My heart would melt every time a little voice called me Mrs. Villa.


TGRF: What was unique about your volunteer experience during the pandemic?

NRV: Volunteering during a pandemic gave me perspective observing how children were coping with the Zoom challenges of education. The young students are so positive and love to be in class with their friends. There were camera, video, or sound issues at times, but they were quickly resolved. The children are very adaptable and the TGR Learning Lab teachers and staff were an inspiration.


TGRF: What is something you have learned from your time as a volunteer at TGR Foundation?

NRV: I learned how to better communicate verbally and in writing while working with the Learning Lab teachers. I, too, learned to practice positive, healthy boundaries with the children in the program. My volunteer experience at TGR Foundation led me to realize that I want to work with kids in my future employment.


TGRF: We are approaching National Volunteer Week. Why do you feel it is important for people to volunteer and give back to their community?  

NRV: It is essential to volunteer with the children in our community. The children that the TGR Learning Lab assists are children that come from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds. If we want our community to thrive and flourish, it is vital to give back to make our community and children’s future better.


Building student success for 25 years.

The TGR Learning Lab opened in 2006 to provide students accessible learning opportunities to explore their passions and receive holistic support to thrive in and outside of the classroom. Programs serve students from 5th-grade through higher education and are supported from our generous donors, partners and volunteers. To learn more about our virtual volunteer opportunities click here.