Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Sean
Late in 2016, Sean Reisman was searching for a volunteer opportunity. An attorney by day, Sean wanted a meaningful way to connect with his community, and his goal was two-fold:
First, he needed an outlet outside of litigation work to dedicate some time and resources to. Second, he wanted that outlet to be a force for good—something to support that had a local, foundational impact. Having worked with kids and education early on in college, and witnessed the barriers many face to educational opportunities, Sean decided to focus his energy there.
He did an online search for local volunteer opportunities tied to education, and discovered CommonBond. He was especially excited about the option to be at CommonBond’s Cathedral Hill housing community, which was close to his own home in St. Paul. He became a weekly Homework Center tutor and hasn’t looked back.
“The work CommonBond does through the Homework Center is profound. Housing is critical, and going beyond that to support people with low incomes—especially families with kids—just makes sense to me,” he shared. “CommonBond’s work touches on many things I deeply value, so I wanted to be involved in the effort.”
"Each person deserves the opportunity to have a great educational experience."
Sean grew up on Staten Island in New York, and completed his undergraduate degree at New York University and his law degree at Fordham University. He did work study with America Reads as a classroom assistant during his first two years of college, cementing his love of working with youth and seeing the impact of education. “Kids learn differently, and I believe each person deserves the opportunity to have a great educational experience,” says Sean.
After working in corporate finance for a while, Sean moved to Minnesota to be with his partner, Ben, who is now his husband. Both of them have sought out ways to connect more deeply with community. For Sean, working to support youth and helping them learn in a fun and creative environment makes a big difference—especially as an outlet outside of work that isn’t tied to his educational background.
Sean recently led a lesson plan inspired by the ballet Scheherazade by Igor Rimsky-Korsakov. His goal was to show the youth how one thing can inspire something else—like music inspiring a drawing, which was the ultimate work product from the lesson. After providing an overview of the composer and music, he then shared both the original piece and examples of adaptations while the students drew images of what the music made them imagine.
"We all have to figure out how to interact, engage, and find common ground."
Having an ongoing connection with CommonBond youth feels important to him. He hopes the youth benefit from interacting with an adult who isn’t their parent or teacher—"I'm someone who cares about them and is around on a regular and continuous basis. We all have to figure out how to interact, engage, and find common ground."
He loves working with the youth because “they’re such great kids—and equally as important: they’re really smart.” He loves witnessing them learn and achieve in school and life. For example, one of the girls is incredible at math. He’s excited to nurture that and to encourage her to find opportunities to take advantage of those skills. "I want her to know she’s fully capable of becoming a doctor, hedge fund manager, accountant, engineer...whatever she chooses." But he simply wants her to know there are so many options available.
"We talk about our hopes for the future. And we talk about social justice and the importance of kindness."
While working full-time, he is able to stay committed to Homework Center because CommonBond has been flexible in welcoming him and his skills. In addition to doing fun and educational activities with the youth—everything from gardening to art projects to learning the chemistry behind slime—CommonBond staff facilitate conversations between the youth and Sean and other volunteers. They talk about the challenges that await them in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. And, they discuss bullying—not being a bully, how to deal with being bullied, and what to do when they see others being bullied.
The youth and adults also talk about their respective backgrounds—where they’re from, what their families are like, which holidays they celebrate – and how that makes them who they are. He has observed some strong similarities between the Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities, and values the open conversations he and the youth have had.
“We talk about our hopes for the future. And we talk about social justice and the importance of kindness,” says Sean. “This volunteer opportunity has been such a powerful experience for me—I am committed to continuing to support these CommonBond youth and excited to see how their lives unfold!”