2019 G.E.M. Volunteer Award Recipients

For the second year, Queens Public Library has awarded the Go the Extra Mile (G.E.M.) Award to our volunteers who go above and beyond in their service and embody the Library’s mission “to transform lives by cultivating personal and intellectual growth and by building strong communities.”

Five of our volunteers have received G.E.M. Awards, and three have been recognized as Honorable Mentions. Learn more about them below.

Thank you to them, and to every QPL volunteer, for their service!

2019 G.E.M. Volunteer Award Recipients

Lingling Huang

Lingling Huang, Homework Helper/Activity Assistant, Queensboro Hill Library
"Lingling is amazing: she's our Homework Helper volunteer, but she's so much more than that. She's been our community liaison here at Queensboro Hill, whether it's helping with translation so that parents can take part in our family programming, acting as a second (or third) pair of hands during a popular program session, or setting up a homework help table during the week. Lingling's help and connections to our local public elementary school have also allowed us to restart our class visits and relationships with PS 120. She is a friendly, calming influence at Queensboro Hill. We are thrilled to have her as part of our QPL family!"—Rosemary Kiladitis, Assistant Community Library Manager, Queensboro Hill Library


Fran Kipnis

Fran Kipnis, Queens Memory Project Interviewer
"Fran brings a wonderful combination of passion, communication skills, curiosity, and empathy to her volunteer work with the Queens Memory Project. She has conducted well over a dozen interviews for us, mostly as part of a special project we’re conducting to capture Queens LGBTQ+ History. As a small team, Queens Memory depends upon our volunteers to represent us, often in non-library settings around the borough. Fran visits senior centers and political club meetings, and meets with elderly interviewees who quickly feel comfortable sharing their life stories! She knows that much of history is left unrecorded and that underrepresented voices not only deserve the honor of being on the record, but also benefit our future understanding of events and places from the past. Queens Public Library researchers will be thanking her in the future for her contributions."—Natalie Milbrodt, QPL Metadata Services Coordinator & Director of Queens Memory


Matthew Kolbusz

Matthew Kolbusz, ESOL Conversation Group Leader, Broadway Library
"In 2018, Matthew inherited the Broadway ESOL Intermediate Conversation Class from a previous volunteer. Within 1 month, he tripled attendance. Within 1 year, attendance rose 900%. Word has spread and eager new students continue to join weekly. Matthew beams with pride when he speaks of his students. He is highly punctual—not deterred by blizzards, sub-freezing temperatures, and endless M/R train delays. He continually grows and evolves his lesson plans to stay current and relevant. Passersby of his classroom overhear the uproarious laughter of students acting out scenarios that are relatable, fun, and whimsical. His students are fiercely loyal and insist to anyone who will lend an ear that Matthew is the 'very best ever!' They are drawn not only to the depth of his lesson plans, but just as equally to his charm, warmth, ebullience, grace, and humanity."—Abigail Goldberg, Assistant Community Library Manager, Broadway Library


Ayoola Silvera

Ayoola Silvera, Correctional Services Volunteer
"Ayoola volunteers her time and makes the lengthy commute from the Bronx in order to assist with library services at the Anna M. Kross Center at Rikers Island. During service, she is always respectful towards clients and offers excellent readers’ advisory, helping patrons select the best reading materials to suit their tastes and interests. She often brings thoughtful selections of books and magazines to donate to the collection. She is always on time, patient, and helpful. Ayoola has become such a dependable and consistent presence during service that patrons have come to rely on her knowledge of the collection. In a difficult environment like a correctional facility, the presence of a such a friendly, approachable, professional, and intelligent volunteer is a wonderful boon!"—Kim McNeil Capers, QPL Director of Community Engagement


Yiding Yang

Yiding Yang, Chess Instructor, Poppenhusen Library
"Yiding is a young man who is truly dedicated to Poppenhusen Library and its customers. Every Thursday, rain or shine, he travels to Poppenhusen to teach children the time-honored game of chess. Yiding has never once been late for his lessons, and has gained a loyal following of students eager to learn. He instills the values of forward thinking, self-reliance, and self-confidence through his chess lessons. The children he teaches come away feeling better about themselves and their parents are also pleased with his results. Yiding has made Poppenhusen Library a very popular place to be on Thursday evenings. Every week, he can be counted on to walk in with a warm smile; infectious, happy energy; and a willingness to help children find the value in themselves that they then take and spread outside of the library system."—Miquel Rowell-Peterson, Customer Service Supervisor, Poppenhusen Library


2019 G.E.M. Volunteer Award Honorable Mentions

Leon Isakov, CUNY Service Corp. Intern, Job & Business Academy
"Leon, who is wrapping up his second year majoring in Biology at Queens College, is currently fulfilling his CUNY Service Corp. internship with the Job & Business Academy at Central Library. Leon has quickly established himself as a competent and reliable individual. So far, and successfully, he has taken on the challenge of facilitating several of JBA's Financial Literacy workshops. From day one, with great diligence and clear thinking, Leon has given his full assistance to the entire staff. He is a hands-on worker who has gone above and beyond his duties by familiarizing himself with all JBA services and creating useful documents for training future interns and employees. He is vocal about suggestions that would benefit not only the department but also our customers. All of this translates to him being a great assistant and representative of the Job & Business Academy."—Lakishia Brown, JBA Special Projects Coordinator

Vincent Haywood-Howell, Chess Instructor, Seaside Library
"Vincent has been volunteering as a chess Instructor since 2014. He has devoted his free time volunteering every week without fail after coming from his full-time Job. He comes every Monday and sets up the tables, chairs, and chess sets. He engages adults and especially kids and shows them how to play chess, step by step, in a very easy manner. As a resident of the neighborhood, almost everyone knows and recognizes him. He is a very charismatic person and has developed relationships with the kids and families here at Seaside. New families still show up on Mondays, looking for Vincent so he can teach their kids how to play chess."—Jay Dela Cruz, Community Library Manager, Seaside Library

Mitchell Lewis, Clerical Volunteer, Central Library
"Mitchell is a former participant of the Young Adult Literacy Program. He actively volunteered 2-3 times a week after class at Central Library while he was enrolled in the program, assisting with clerical duties. He always asked how he could be of more help and reached out to other departments. He tackled our task of 'going green' by digitally scanning our paper files and materials. Mitchell recently placed out of our Pre-High School Equivalency program and decided to study independently to take his HSE exam. Although he still has quite a journey ahead of him, he still shows up to volunteer every day, friendly, excited, full of stories and smiles and always willing to lend a hand. What makes me want to recognize him is that although he completed the program and no longer needs to attend classes or come to the Library, he chose to come back and still commit his free time to helping his library family."—Shayla Simpson, QPL Senior Manager of Young Adult Literacy

Posts in This Series

  1. QPL Volunteer Spotlight: Our 2020 GEM Award Winners!