Volunteer Spotlight: Aaron Mills, Director of ESOL Programs
We are excited to introduce you to our new Director of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Programs, Aaron Mills. We sat down with Aaron to learn about his ideas and what we can expect to see from the program in the coming months. Read on to learn more about Aaron and his role at A Faith That Does Justice.
How did you get involved with A Faith That Does Justice?
About 2 years ago, I took on a work assignment in Boston and had free time in the evenings for the first time in a long time so I wanted to find a way to give back to the community. I’ve always had a passion for building a sense of community around me. A friend invited me to a presentation by A Faith That Does Justice and after meeting Father Peter, I knew he was the kind of person I wanted to work with. When he told me about this opportunity, I felt that I could make an impact and contribution through this role.
Tell us about your goals for your new role.
There are several areas that I think are opportunities for growth and effectiveness. The first is a more proactive approach to recruitment, to try to extend the runway and the timeline around the process for reaching out not just to students but to recruiting teachers, tutors and other volunteers.
A second objective is around retention. Learning a language is very difficult and becomes even more difficult as an adult. Our best learning years happen when we’re younger. I have a real empathy for people coming to a new country, finding their moorings and learning a new language. We have a great approach so I want to focus on increasing retention. We can focus on things like positive reinforcement and communication on a personalized and weekly basis. I think we can work with sponsors in the business community to come up with incentives and milestones. We can use humanity and empathy to provide confidence and comfort – recognizing it’s difficult but encouraging students to see it through.
My third goal is to create stronger partnerships with the other organizations we work with to improve the effectiveness of the administrative coordination and communication. Our volunteers and our partners at Jewish Vocational Services are all doing heroic and remarkable things, and I think we can better coordinate the collective work and be even more effective.
Why did this role interest you?
Helping to create and develop a strong sense of local community is important to me. While I appreciate mission work (two of my children are in the Peace Corp), I wanted to do something focused on the local community. I did my undergrad in Boston so it was important for me to do something that was focused on the city and surrounding areas. I am a huge believer in supporting people coming to this country with a passion for assimilation, supporting local culture, and learning language so this was a great fit for me.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I live in Boston now. I moved from West Chester, PA.
Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
In addition to my professional life and being a husband and father to 7 wonderful children, I have a farm in Pennsylvania. We have a fruit orchard, dairy cows, and chickens so I am a small, part-time farmer.
You can learn more about our ESOL program on our blog here.