Volunteer Story Friday: Katy Mayes

Katy Mayes is a volunteer leader at Boston Cares, who has recently informed us that she will soon be leaving to pursue a degree in adult education, inspired by her experiences at Boston Cares. We immediately knew we needed to share her story:


“I never wanted to be a teacher. I dabbled in the field after college, substitute teaching at a junior high. The days were longer than any office job, and the rowdy children had little interest in my lessons. I quickly snatched up a less-than-fulfilling job in finance, far from a quiet whisper of a calling I once had towards working within the corrections systems; a calling based solely on a passion for social justice to which I firmly replied “passion does not pay the rent.”

Six years down the road I entered the world of adult education the same way I had most things in my life, with a quick nosedive head first. I stumbled upon the Boston Cares website through Google, looking for a way to serve the community that holds so much of my heart: the city of Boston. An opportunity at X-Cel Adult Education for literacy tutoring caught my eye, so off I went one Monday evening. I entered the noisy, crowded room and was shuffled into a tight, corner space with a French man and told to guide him through a reading exam. Nervously, I timed him as he worked and prayed he wouldn’t ask me for help. I had never tutored adults. I was unfamiliar with the GED exam. What could I offer? As the minutes ticked away, I watched him work through his test booklet, underlining words, circling answers. I called time. He turned to me for help. Suddenly, our hours together were over. I realized my volunteer time was up, and I had done it. I had done the thing I feared most as those minutes had ticked by through his exam. I had taught.

Through volunteering with the GED program I have received more than I have ever given. Through students’ eyes, I have seen a vision for my future. In an essay, many of the students wrote about their desires for careers that are hindered by a lack of diplomas.  I encouraged them week after week to keep working despite their fears that they can never change or reach their goals. I came to the realization that I was hindering myself in the same way with lack of degree, hindering myself with fear of change. I encouraged the students to do something I had not been doing for myself. I began to feed off their energy and dedication and found a Masters of Adult Education program with a noted commitment to social justice and applied to school. Now I look at my students each week and think we can achieve our dreams and goals together.

I will be forever grateful to Boston Cares for reopening the window that let in the whisper of my calling and led me down this exciting new path in my life. I never wanted to be a teacher until the students at X-Cel Adult Education turned around and taught me that I did.”  

 Thanks for sharing, Katy! And good luck in your pursuits. 

To volunteer at X-Cel Adult Education through Boston Cares, click here to choose a session through our Calendar Program.

Want to share your story? Send it to volunteers@bostoncares.org and we’ll be in touch.