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Go the Extra Mile (G.E.M.) Awards 2024 - Nicole Shiiba

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation 2024, Queens Public Library recognizes the contributions of its volunteers and spotlights the recipients of the Go the Extra Mile (G.E.M.) Volunteer Award.  G.E.M. celebrates individuals that exemplify the values of Queens Public Library and demonstrate stellar customer service and dedication to our patrons and staff.

This year, Queens Public Library recognizes Nicole Shiiba for her work as an English Conversation Group Facilitator.  She goes above and beyond to create wonderful conversational activities for her students and her groups are consistently well-attended and they feel like families.  Nicole decided to keep facilitating two groups, even when she began working full-time.  She often will do outreach to both the ESOL Program and outside agencies to assist her students who need immigrant-related resources beyond English language assistance.  Her passion and compassion for her students is obvious and she is always looking for new ways to make the lives of NYC newcomers easier.

“Nicole is so exemplary in this role that when new volunteers are being trained to be English conversation group facilitators, the ESOL Program refers them to her groups to do an observation.  New volunteers consistently report what a wonderful experience they had visiting her groups and that they learned a lot that will help them become new English conversation group facilitators.  Nicole is always welcoming to the new volunteers, not only letting them observe, but talking with them about the in-service role and her experience”, said Mara Kotler, Lead Instructor, Adult Learner Program.

 Meet Nicole Shiiba...

Q: What can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: My name is Nicole Shiiba; I was born in Trinidad & Tobago, and I immigrated to the United States of America in 1992.  I became a volunteer ESL conversation instructor after being laid off and wanted to give back to my community. My career aspirations are to become an ESOL teacher and a public advocate.

Q: What was your first memorable experience with Queens Public Library (i.e., visiting as a child, attending a program, getting a library card, etc.)?

A: Growing up in Jamaica, Queens, I’d occasionally visit the main Jamaica library branch to complete my schoolwork and use the computers. 

Q: Why did you first volunteer with QPL? What was your first Volunteer experience with the library?

A: After being laid off from my job and having much time on my hands, I wanted to explore a career as a librarian through volunteering.  I found my first volunteer position at the McGoldrick Library. I later learned on the Queens Public Library's website about volunteering opportunities for teaching an English conversation class.  With no teaching experience, I tried it out and fell in love with it. I’m at two locations, the Rego Park branch on Thursday evenings and the McGoldrick Library, Flushing on Saturdays.

Q: In keeping with our theme of Service Takes Many Forms… What were your reasons for volunteering in your role and why did you feel a need to serve in this capacity?

A: I wanted to volunteer and help in some meaningful way. Through this volunteer program at the library, I realized the great need and desire for people to learn English, to find work, and connect with other people of the community.   The community is so diverse, so this class brings people together from different backgrounds and allows them to learn from one another.  I look forward to each class and the conversations that we have. My students have become my friends and I look forward to hearing about their everyday achievements in their lives.

Q: The library continues to explore different ways for its volunteers to contribute to the community. What are two new ways you would like to support the community through the library? Why?

A: In my opinion, I believe the library has managed to move with the times and has been providing many ways that a volunteer can contribute to their community but. Two new ways I would like to assist are by co-partnering with elementary, middle and high schools to increase awareness of child trafficking because the traffickers often operate under the radar. And secondly provide support to our Veterans by spending time and taking the time to listen and advocate for our veterans.

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