Volunteer Spotlight- From a Teacher to a Brother

We are excited to feature Sam DiSimone for this month’s volunteer spotlight. Sam has been volunteering at New AP for several years and we are so grateful for his dedication and passion for service.

Sam and Mohamad, a former refugee from Burma, have been partnered together for English at Home tutoring for nearly two years. Although Mohamad already spoke three languages (Burmese, Malay, and Hindi), he realized that in order to get a better job, to better participate in U.S. society, and to help his family realize a better future, he would need to improve his English-language skills. Sam had recently retired from a 34-year career as a corporate attorney, including 20 years as general counsel of EarthLink (and its predecessor MindSpring), to focus on community service.

Mohamad and Sam’s work together quickly expanded beyond English lessons. During the spring and summer of 2019, Sam began helping Mohamad prepare to become a U.S. citizen. Mohamad studied very hard for the naturalization exam and learned a lot about U.S. history and government. In the end, he knew the answers to all 100 questions in the question bank of the civics portion of the exam, even though he was aware that he would be required to answer correctly only 6 out of 10 of them. On August 22, 2019, Mohamad passed the exam, and at the naturalization ceremony in Atlanta on February 21, 2020, he took the citizenship oath with an auditorium of other immigrants. Afterward he registered to vote at a kiosk in the lobby. Mohamad and his family are proud of his great achievement, and his daughter, who graduated from Stone Mountain High School in May, wants to follow in his footsteps. Sam is equally proud of Mohamad and inspired by his determination.

On June 9, 2020, Mohamad voted in the Georgia primary election, the first time in his life he has been able to vote. He is especially eager to cast a ballot in the presidential election on November 3. He and Sam are currently helping other new US Citizens in the Burmese community apply for mail-in ballots so that they too can vote.

Sam, Mohamad, and their families

Mohamad and Sam say that their relationship has steadily evolved into a close friendship, and they are grateful for finding each other through New American Pathways. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, they enjoyed many activities together, including sharing family dinners and Muslim holiday picnics, climbing Stone Mountain, and visiting local museums. Says Mohamad: “I feel so happy because now I can vote. When Sam and I met in 2018 we were teacher student and it has evolved into a close friendship. We are brothers now. And thank you to New American Pathways because you introduced me to Sam. I am so very happy that New American Pathways and Sam are in my life now.”

Sam encourages others to volunteer with New American Pathways, saying: “By helping someone with an extraordinary life experience, your life will be enriched in ways you can’t imagine. New American Pathways has given me an opportunity to develop a wonderful, life-long friendship with a remarkable person and his family.”