2020 G.E.M. Volunteer Award Recipients

For the third 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.”

Four 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!

2020 G.E.M. Volunteer Award Recipients

Ariana Islam

Ariana Islam, Library Aide, Broadway Library
"Ms. Islam joined Broadway Library shortly after Steinway Library closed for renovation. Her contribution was essential and indispensable. The staff rejoiced upon her arrival each day! She was exceptionally dynamic, eager, motivated, and sharp. Her work was on-point, accurate, precise, and detailed. She worked tirelessly to assist the staff with absolutely every assignment necessary. She would complete an assignment in record time and ask for more. She assisted with everything from backyard gardening to shelving books to tracking down missing books to supporting children’s programs. Ms. Islam’s insightful reflections on her generation—Generation Z—greatly helped us improve Broadway’s teen collection and programming. At summer’s end, she gifted the staff a heartfelt thank-you card and yummy treats. In part, she wrote 'All of you feel like part of my family. Thank you for being so nice. I love you all.'”—Abigail Goldberg, Assistant Community Library Manager, Broadway Library


May Ding

May “Hui-Chien” Ding, Clerical Aide/ESOL Conversation Group Facilitator, Flushing Adult Learning Center
"Hui-Chien started as an ESOL student in 2011. Seeing that she was an excellent student, helping other students who were having trouble in our English program, we asked her to take the formal training to become a Clerical Volunteer. She assists staff during registrations and computer orientations. She also became an ESOL Conversation Group Facilitator, helping students who have had very little schooling in their native country. When our volunteer facilitator program changed from one day a week to two, she willingly agreed. When we lost another evening volunteer, she also helped in that class. And when we needed a Saturday volunteer, yes, she helped during that class too! Last year, we lost half our paid administrative staff. Without a volunteer like Hui-Chien, we wouldn’t have been able to sustain the same level of service. Hui-Chien willingly steps in when we need extra help. She is a team player and, most importantly, she does it all with enthusiasm and a smile on her face."—Gary Beharry, Supervising Museum Instructor, Adult Learner Program

Rezwanuddin “Rezwan” Ahmed, Chess Club Leader, Flushing Library
"Rezwan is without parallel. Not only is he deeply interested in chess as a game, but he’s gone above and beyond in finding opportunities to improve and strengthen our Chess Club every week. Typical Chess Club volunteers commit 2 hours a week, and aren’t expected to have more than a basic understanding of chess gameplay. Rezwan has a deeper understanding of chess than most people, but that’s not all—without being asked, he stepped up when we needed a leader for our Chess Club and we were short on staff and volunteers. He keeps the club going when we’re not able to directly supervise it on busy Saturdays, recruits additional volunteers, and designed an ongoing series of strategy classes that have a devoted following, not least because he's an inspiring and talented teacher. All this while remaining courteous, friendly, and polite to our customers! He’s here every single Saturday without fail...except for once...when he was defending his doctoral thesis! (And he even apologized for taking the day off!)—Red Coffey and Angela Perez, Children's Librarians, Flushing Library

Anita Harvey-Edwards, Homework Helper, Rosedale Library
"Ms. Anita joined us to provide homework help for our younger customers, especially those whose parents couldn’t help them due to a language barrier. The children themselves were limited in the English language, thus affecting their reading comprehension. Ms. Anita helps them both with reading and with their homework. She does this with love and care, and the children and their parents are so endeared to her. She extended her work to parents who were willing to learn English as well and schedules time with them to come in while their children are at school. One parent in particular had a very challenging situation; she didn’t speak a word of English and her native language is Arabic, so Ms. Anita used online sources, including the Library’s Rocket Language and Transparent Language databases. She also taught another Spanish-speaking parent how to speak English. Ms. Anita even comes in when she is not 100% feeling well so her students will not miss out on learning. Recently, at our Spelling Bee contest, two of her students participated and won prizes. Ms. Anita shows so much respect to both customers and staff. She sure is an asset to the Rosedale community."—Olga Gordon-Murray, Community Library Manager, Rosedale Library


2020 G.E.M. Volunteer Award Honorable Mentions

Caroline LaMarr, Library Aide, Pomonok Library
"Since I started here, I have not come across a volunteer who is as dedicated and consistent to their branch as Ms. LaMarr. She takes pride in ensuring that the library DVDs are always kept in perfect condition. She shelves them, organizes them, and repairs any damage to cases or labels. Ms. LaMarr also loves to water and maintain the many plants that we have here at Pomonok. If she misses a regular workday, she will come in on another day just to take care of the plants. She knows that the day after a holiday closing, our workload will be more than usual, so she takes it upon herself to come in the day after any library holiday. She will come in the day after Christmas, New Year’s, and any and every holiday to make sure we have extra help. Ms. LaMarr is very friendly and is a familiar face to many of our customers. She also recommends books and DVDs to them. She has been volunteering here for so long and we love her commitment and dedication."—Nadia Mubarez, Pomonok Library


Oluwapelumi Fasola

Oluwapelumi Fasola, Homework Helper, Central Library Teen Space
"Mr. Fasola deserves this recognition because staff and customers alike have a tremendous amount of appreciation for the work that he does in the Teen Space. He has developed quite a following of customers who come to him for assistance with specialized examinations, including the TASC, Regents, and SAT. Mr. Fasola has so much patience with customers, he explains complex math problems in a language that it is easy for them to understand, and he does not hesitate to go over the content with them for however long is necessary for the material to sink in. Mr. Fasola is frequently here with children and teens well after his scheduled time to leave has come and gone. Many of the students, and the parents of the students that he works with, come in and ask for him specifically. I believe that Mr. Fasola’s presence in the Teen Space reinforces our mission of 'cultivating intellectual growth.' Our customers have an invaluable opportunity for test review and learning thanks to him."—Christiana Parish, Assistant Community Library Manager, Central Library Teen Space


Israel Weiss

Israel Weiss, Tabletop Gaming Aide, Queensboro Hill Library
"For months, the Queensboro Hill Teen Tabletop Gaming Club was merely a placeholder on the calendar. Then Israel Weiss walked in and asked about volunteering at Queens Public Library. Perhaps out of desperation, I asked if he knew anything about tabletop gaming. His eyes lit up. I told him not to get his hopes up that anyone would come to the gaming club. His first day, I drafted two tweens to participate. Israel taught them Catan, and they were hooked. They returned with friends. The group grew to seven. After a few months, they asked if we would add another day, so more could come. 'Yes!' Israel agreed. Watching him run the games is delightful. The tweens love him—more accurately, they love teaming up against him. They've even tweaked cooperative games to find a way to make him 'lose.' Israel tolerates it all with excellent humor. He makes every game accessible. He even sat down with me and taught me to play Catan, going over my 1,000 confused questions with no hint of impatience. He seems 'unfazeable,' which is exactly what this group of tweens needs. He is always pleasant, always punctual, always looking to help. We are so glad he chose to walk into our library. We wish every library could have an Israel Weiss."—Amber Loveless, Assistant Community Library Manager, Queensboro Hill Library

Posts in This Series

  1. QPL Volunteer Spotlight: Our 2019 GEM Award Winners!