In their Words...

“I love volunteering with the Literacy Program.”

View more Profiles

Share this


Volunteer Profiles - Meet Maria

In their Words...

“I love volunteering with the Literacy Program.”

The Volunteer Center’s MLK Day of Service compelled Maria Cacia to serve the community so she logged onto the Volunteer Center website to see about connecting regularly to something she is passionate about. She found the Volunteer Center Literacy Program and it struck a chord. Living abroad for 2 1/2 years in Switzerland, Maria remembers what it was like to not speak the mother tongue of a community.

“Knowing the language is key to feeling part of a community, to feeling connected,” states Maria.

While in Switzerland, Maria took German classes and said it was amazingly empowering, transformed her experience and gave her more confidence.

Now a mother to young adult twin daughters, UCSC alumni and retired biotech and oncology field professional living back in Santa Cruz County, Maria wanted to help community members build the same confidence she was able to discover in Switzerland. After completing her Literacy Program Volunteer Tutor Training in February, she received her first student in March and another student soon after. She now tutors her two students once per week for an hour over Zoom – hopefully in-person soon.

Maria’s first student is a mother of two children who works full time in the food service industry. Maria is helping her student advance her English skills so she will be able to communicate with her childrens’ teachers better and have more opportunities at work, as well as feeling more connected to the community.

Her other student graduated from high school in the Spring and her advisor encouraged her to take a year off before starting college in order to advance her English skills. This student discovered the Literacy Program as a great way to receive free English language tutoring and was connected to warm and welcoming Maria.

“My favorite part of volunteer tutoring is the connection I am making with my students and working with Gisela (Literacy Program Specialist),” states Maria. “Gisela is so great, and she has a genuine desire to help people.”

Maria feels supported by Gisela and the Literacy Advisory Committee members who facilitate the tutor training sessions, consisting of an orientation and 4 training sessions. At first Maria was worried.

“How am I going to teach someone English after 8 hours of training and no prior experience?” She thought. “But they offer you a mentor and support you along the way.”

Maria has also enjoyed the Tutor Support Group as a way to gather fresh ideas for tutoring and learn ways to overcome obstacles with virtual tutoring.

“Teaching virtually is challenging, but we’re making it work and my students are making great progress,” states Maria. “I love volunteering with the Literacy Program.”



Give Your Time

BECOME A VOLUNTEER TUTOR: Learn more and sign up for an orientation.

FIND YOUR CAUSE: Still trying to discover your passion? Explore volunteer opportunities currently available.

View more Profiles