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April 11, 2016

Meet Volunteer Selma M.

Selma M.A speech pathologist by training, Selma M. (at right top, with fellow volunteer Victoria T.) has been an enthusiastic member of the WNET volunteer team since 2003. Read on about her commitment to WNET and to tutoring non-English speakers.

What is your background? I was born and raised in Brooklyn. When I got married I moved to West End Ave. where I lived for 48 years. I’ve recently moved to the “suburbs” of Riverdale and I miss living in Manhattan.

I have a Masters in Speech/Language Pathology. While I worked as a speech pathologist and raised my family, I also sang professionally during evenings and weekends. I was part of the Hebrew language singing duo Yaffa and Zamiri. I was the Zamiri half; it means melody. I also served for 20 years as the alto soloist at the Rego Park Jewish Center. I have a natural “chest voice” which is a particular lower register that sounds like a boy alto. People would look around and wonder “Where’s the boy who was singing?” I met the Russian singer and teacher Emil Gorovetz which led to a regular singing gig on the WEVD Sunday morning Forward Hour.

Why did you decide to volunteer and how did you come to volunteer at WNET? Channel Thirteen was the only station allowed in my house to be watched by my two daughters. So naturally when I retired from my position as the Director of Speech/Language Pathology at the Jewish Home and Hospital, Manhattan, I came to Thirteen to help the station educate the public.

What do you do as a volunteer and how long have you volunteered here?
I started as a volunteer in January 2003. For the first 8 years I split my time on Thursdays between the reception desk and Shop Thirteen. I now work in the Volunteer Center on an as needed basis.

Do you also volunteer at other organizations? For the last 10 years I’ve volunteered at the English Speaking Union of the U.S. as a tutor in the English in Action program. It’s conversational English for people who are not native English speakers. The ESU also has a New Immigrant Center. I’ve taught a class there for the last 2 years that focuses on workplace communication skills, helping new immigrant professionals improve their English pronunciation and diction in order to prepare for job interviews.

Do you have a favorite or interesting story about volunteering at WNET? There are so many it’s hard to pick one! I really enjoyed working in the Shop. I met so many wonderful employees from throughout the station.

For our Media with Impact campaign, we’ve been asking viewers to share stories describing how THIRTEEN has influenced their life. How has THIRTEEN (or the PBS station of your childhood) inspired you? I raised my children on Thirteen. As I mentioned above, Thirteen was the only station I would allow them to watch. It was smart and entertaining and I’m happy to say they turned out okay. These days Downton Abby is my favorite program to watch– so civilized yet so intriguing.

What’s currently on your reading list? I’m reading books from the Jodi Picolt series, most recently The Storyteller and Plain Truth. Also Charles Balfour’s The Paris Architect. It’s about a French architect paid to create temporary hiding places for Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris at the same time he’s proudly designing factories for the Germans.

Do you have a favorite hobby or special interest? Tell us about it! I’ve continued with my singing. I’ve been a member of the Broadway Chorus of the 92 St. Y for the past 12 years. It’s the only community choir in New York City devoted to the classic repertory from the American musical theater.

My other special interest is the volunteer work mentioned above. I love using my abilities to help new immigrants improve their English speaking abilities and helping them adjust to life in America.

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