Meet Another Awesome ITWorks Volunteer - Sandie Behrens - for National Volunteer Week

15871871500_9618ff5f52_z.jpg                       Sandie Behrens, left

In recognition of National Volunteer Week, ITWorks is spotlighting one of our amazing volunteers each day this week. Our volunteers are such an asset to our program and make a huge impact on our students. ITWorks would not be the same without them!

Please meet Sandie Behrens, a Software Engineering Manager at Accenture, and a rock star volunteer.

Sandie has been involved with ITWorks for several years by serving as a mentor, participating in several Friday Sessions, speaking at our graduation, and providing guidance as a member of our Board of Directors.

ITWorks: How did you first learn about the ITWorks program? What compelled you to get involved as a volunteer?

Sandie: I first heard about ITWorks when I volunteered for a soft skills session – emotional intelligence, I believe. A colleague of mine roped me into it, probably about three years ago. The reason I got interested is because I came through a very similar program myself through the state of New Jersey. But what made ITWorks different is that it provided the professional soft skills in a meaningful manner that could be applied in a tangible way immediately. That was something I didn’t get.

ITW: You volunteer in a variety of capacities – do you have a favorite way to get involved?

S: I love interacting with the students. I think what’s important is that the students’ can see someone that has had a similar trajectory and has been successful – it shows them that it is possible. I really like being a coach and mentor. It’s really been fantastic. Speaking at graduation is one of my favorite things ever, too!

IMG_6284.jpg         Sandie leading a Friday session

ITW: Describe one experience with a student(s) that stands out as being particularly impactful for the student(s), yourself, or both.

S: One of my previous mentees. I was concerned at first that she was being too passive about the opportunity, that she was sitting back and letting life happen. It wasn’t until we had one particular conversation and something went off in her head. We chatted at graduation with the hope to keep in touch. One day she reached out, and suddenly everything had turned around! I don’t think I was responsible for much of anything, but it inspires me that the “ah ha” moment still happens, and that people are able to move on and change their lives.

ITW: What do you think the benefit is for volunteers who get involved with ITWorks?

S: I think the benefit for the volunteers is, you know, we get caught up in our own personal and professional worlds around here – our self-importance, the daily grind, etc. One of the benefits is that we are able to take a step back from all of that and really make an impact on someone, and with someone. We always learn new things – humility, perseverance, integrity – from the ITWorks students that we mentor. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

ITW: Do you have any insight for organizations or individuals who are considering a volunteer opportunity with ITWorks?

S: I would tell them the benefit is seeing someone’s confidence grow from one drastic end of the spectrum to the other, and the pride that comes along with that. The students do not take this program for granted. And this program provides a pathway to a successful career for those who may not have college as an option. You can’t really feel that benefit until you get involved and volunteer.

ITW: Anything else we should know about your experience as a volunteer?

S: The one thing I would say is that not every student you encounter is going to be the same. They all have different needs, different personalities, and different ways of communicating. But really, that’s what keeps you engaged. I learn so much from them. Probably more than they learn from me. And I’ll continue to be involved for the foreseeable future.

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