Volunteer Spotlight: Xalen

To bring you closer to the heart of the Catherine McAuley Center, we’re excited to introduce you to some of the passionate individuals who are the driving force behind CMC’s impact in the community – our amazing volunteers! This Volunteer Appreciation Month, join us in honoring the caring community members who give their time and talents as CMC volunteers.

Meet Xalen Onyemelukue, Language Lab Volunteer 

Xalen is originally from Detroit where he studied electrical engineering. He moved to Cedar Rapids in 2021 for a job in transmission power systems engineering, working with power lines and transmitting electricity on a larger scale. In college, Xalen was the president of an organization that did some volunteer and outreach work, and he always had a passion for volunteerism. Once he got settled into his job, he had more free time and was looking for a volunteer opportunity where he could work with people.

Last August, Xalen discovered a volunteer role at the Catherine McAuley Center and he spent the day helping in CMC’s Community Garden. Soon after, he was taking a tour of the building to hear about more ways he could be of service!

As Xalen learned more about all of the programs CMC offers, he began exploring other volunteer opportunities, first in CMC Kids – CMC’s free onsite childcare program for clients – and then in Education’s Computer Language Lab.

Working in the Language Lab, Xalen discovered how much he likes working with  students who come in to learn English. Though it’s often a group setting, he loves finding opportunities to connect with students one-on-one.

“You really develop a connection, I would say with a lot of the students that come in regularly. It’s really rewarding to see a student that you are working with develop or progress. To see something click for them on what they are working on, I really love seeing that,” Xalen says.

One student in particular stands out. “I don’t know if he notices this himself, but I’ve really seen him improve in terms of what he does in English and how well he communicates even at a casual level when he walks in and we talk.”

When it comes to the most rewarding part of volunteering, Xalen says, “It’s an opportunity for me to be of service in the community of course. I very much value that. I value what CMC does as a whole so I like being a part of that even if just a small part.”

He plans to continue working with English students in the Language Lab and hopes to branch out and explore additional volunteer roles in other programs as they happen in the future. “I just want to continue to be as helpful as I can.”

Xalen encourages anyone who’s interested in volunteering at CMC to definitely do it and to “give everything a chance if you can.”

Thank you, Xalen!