IIBA Volunteer: Jennifer Boyle

Frustrated by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of last year’s presidential election, Jennifer Boyle decided to stand up and take action. She was intent on supporting the immigrant community, so she contacted IIBA Board President Jennifer Beckett seeking volunteer opportunities.

For the past year, Jennifer has been assisting IIBA’s citizenship classes in San Francisco, helping students prepare for the civics and interview components of the citizenship exam. “Before I got in contact with Jennifer, I did not know IIBA existed, but it was eye-opening to see the impact the organization has throughout the Bay Area,” says Jennifer.

From a young age Jennifer was drawn towards meeting people from different countries and learning their customs. That interest led her to a career in international relations. Her professional path has allowed her to work on conflict resolution, philanthropy, and educational projects outside the United States. At home she has worked to build global competency among American students, allowing them to succeed when placed in cross-cultural environments.

At IIBA Jennifer has found fulfillment in watching her students’ understanding of the test materials and grasp of the English language improve. “Having conversations with each student and learning what motivates each one to attend class week after week is special,” she says. She has found a common thread amongst all students, regardless of their country of origin: each has a strong desire to participate fully in the rights and responsibilities of this country as a citizen.

Given Jennifer’s professional background, she has the unique ability to comprehend her students’ experiences as newcomers learning new customs. Her passion for working with immigrants has led her to consider a change in careers. She is currently researching pathways to becoming a full time English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor or a counselor for international students.

“My weekly volunteer work with the students gives me a feel for the skills I will need to further contribute,” she explains. Jennifer hopes all her students pass their exams, and beyond that, she wants them to walk away knowing that people in this country care about immigrants, want them to feel welcome, and want to help them succeed.

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