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June 25, 2017

UR Volunteer Heroes: Niomi Kaiser


Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) is a non-profit organization that provides Virginians with a range of services, from pregnancy counseling to refugee resettlement. To Niomi Kaiser, it's more like a second home.

For Kaiser, this semester marks the start of her third academic year working with the Richmond CCC on a weekly basis. She began volunteering with the organization as a first-year through the University of Richmond Bonner Scholars program. Now a third-year looking ahead to graduation, Kaiser cites her service learning experience as a major factor in shaping her plans for the future.

Kaiser's role at CCC involves teaching English as a second language (ESL) to refugees and immigrants. Her time with the organization has influenced her career path, as she wants to continue with similar work post-graduation.

Kaiser emanates optimism about the opportunity to continue her work. "Now that I have become an ESL teacher, I am considering maybe going to Japan after school...to teach English there," Kaiser said.

Kaiser's perspective on education has evolved as a result of her work with students at CCC. She began by sticking to the curriculum and teaching her students by the book, but she found that giving students the freedom to choose what they learned was more beneficial, as their English studies became relevant to their lives.

"I ask them what they want to do, and try to accommodate that," Kaiser said. "I always hated it in school when people said, 'oh we gotta study for this standardized test,' and I don't want to be that teacher."

As a result of this collaborative teaching technique, Kaiser will hold a resume workshop for her class next week. Among other topics, Kaiser has emphasized teaching practical, everyday English skills such as setting up a bank account, writing checks and addressing envelopes.

Kaiser reflects on her time with CCC as an immersive volunteer experience. "It feels like a family," she said. "We really look out for each other."

Kaiser urges other students to get involved with community non-profits through UR's Center for Civic Engagement. "If anyone's interested, please help out in any way possible," she said.

With partner organizations in sectors such as health, education, conservation, transportation, refugee resettlement and beyond, there is truly something for everyone. 

Contact features writer Hannah Dunn at hannah.dunn@richmond.edu.


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