Renaissance values the communities where we live and work. That’s why we offer employees two days of paid time off each year to participate in local public service projects and charities. Meet some of our colleagues who volunteer to support events and organizations that are meaningful to them.
Barb Fisher and Meredith Nasif spend their days at Renaissance working behind the scenes on the company’s Accelerated Reader product. The two long-time Renaissance employees also dedicate some of their free time at the Portage County Literacy Council (PCLC). The organization helps area adults develop the basic math and English literacy skills necessary to achieve economic self-sufficiency and community integration.
Barb says she first learned of PCLC when a former Renaissance colleague took a job with the organization and knew she wanted to eventually volunteer with the group. In fall of 2020 she decided the time was right. “My kids are grown, and now I have time to give back to the community,” she says.
Barb was paired with a learner from Nicaragua who works on a local dairy farm. His goal is to speak English confidently with his boss and in everyday exchanges such as asking for help at a store. At first, the man spoke no English. Now, after several months of weekly, basic-English tutoring sessions over video, he has advanced to conversational English. “It’s so rewarding and gratifying to help someone achieve their goals, and to feel more comfortable in their community,” Barb says. “I know that I’m a better person for knowing and working with him and PCLC.”.
Meredith also began volunteering with PCLC in the fall. She began tutoring a man from Guatemala who, after 15 years of living in the U.S., is working toward earning his GED and U.S. citizenship. “Our time together is focused on preparing for his citizenship test,” Meredith says. “My husband immigrated to the U.S., so I know how challenging the test can be. The learner I’m working with is very committed to his goals and that makes me feel invested in his success.”
Barb and Meredith both say they feel a strong connection between their volunteering and their work at Renaissance. “Working with PCLC allows us to carry out the Renaissance mission in the community,” Meredith says. “We’re accelerating learning for adults, and we’re making a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Vice President, National Education Officer
Volunteering is often viewed as a way to give back to others in need. Sometimes, though, it offers the opportunity to support those who have already given so much themselves. For Jan Bryan, that’s how it feels when she volunteers for an equine therapy group at Crocket Retreat Center (CRC) in Texas.
CRC exists as a way to give back to the men and women who serve our nation as military veterans and first responders. Jan and her husband, Neal, both volunteer at CRC, which is led by a family member.
“When we volunteer, I’m an extra pair of hands outside of the arena, providing help with tack, getting water, first aid, meal prep and clean up — and if needed, a listening ear,” she says. “Neal volunteers as a photographer, documenting sessions for participants who request photos, and most do.”
The Bryans also have donated money to help with meal expenses on the days they volunteer. Each session at CRC is a day-and-a-half equine therapy event for veterans, first responders, and their families who are coping with PTSD.
“During the sessions we’re taught that if you can control a 1,200-pound animal with calm, gentleness, quietness, and confidence in yourself, you can handle anything,” she says.
Of her experience at CRC, Jan says she benefits from “getting to know some of the greatest families on the planet.”
“I have zero life experience in military and public safety,” Jan says, “so it is amazing to get to know these families and observe their points of view about day-to-day tasks and caring for people.”
Field Account Executive
When Kamika Bell was 15 years old, her talent, poise, and uplifting personality caught the attention of organizers of the Miss Teen Pennsylvania Pageant. Before long, she was enrolled in the Miss USA and Miss America pageant program in which she sharpened skills she uses today as a mentor to young women in Wilmington, Delaware.
Kamika founded Catalyst For Change and its Girls with Pearls mentorship program which focuses on teaching girls how to dress for important occasions, to use proper table manners and to understand the power of a simple thank you. “I believe young girls who possess good manners and polished social graces are more successful in their relationships with friends, parents and teachers,” Kamika says.
Girls with Pearls, which offers sessions and activities three days each week, is designed to inspire young girls to strive for higher standards of education, an appreciation for the arts, and to embody a spirit of excellence. In addition, Catalyst For Change hosts children’s events, international mission trips, and its annual formal gala which honors extraordinary local leaders. Now the organization is running full steam ahead. In fact, during the pandemic, Kamika opened its first dedicated space in Wilmington’s Trolley Square.
Kamika says the experience of participating in pageants in her teen years boosted her confidence and expectations of herself, and she wants the same for today’s young ladies. “This experience is helping me become the best version of myself,” she says. “It has made me a better leader and continues to sharpen my skills, professionally and personally. These girls deserve that same opportunity.”