Marguerite “Cookie” Mourkakos was one of many volunteers who gained a career that they never expected after volunteering with the School Library Program. A dedicated mother of four, Cookie initially began volunteering at the library in her daughter’s school. “In high school I was in the Library Club, so I knew a little bit about libraries. I could shelve books, I could repair books,” she says.
When UMASS began offering courses for library sciences, Boston Partners staff member Polly Kaufman encouraged Cookie to pursue the opportunity. Cookie explains: “UMASS was offering the course Books and The City Child, and they said, ‘you really should take it.’ I said, ‘I don’t have enough time! I’ve got children, I’ve got a husband.’ Polly insisted, ‘you really should take it!’
“So, my mother volunteered to watch my children. When I went there, the first assignment was to read 10 children’s books. We had to read them, and it wasn’t reading for fun but it was part of the class. I thought, ‘oh, maybe I don’t have this kind of time.’ But that was good and that worked. Everybody was really very supportive. Then we had to read other books, like chapter books. It was really very easy.”
Cookie was delighted to pass the course and gain college credit, but she did not believe that it would create too many opportunities for her. However, she was soon offered a position filling in for a library paraprofessional at the Longfellow School. “In the meantime I was pregnant with my fourth child, and I said to myself, ‘I’m only here till June. 5 days a week.’ But the teachers were so supportive of me. They were wonderful people,” she reminisces.
When Cookie’s temporary position was over, Polly Kaufman encouraged her to remain employed by the Boston Public Schools, taking on one day a week in Roslindale, where she currently works. As her children grew up, Cookie decided to become employed full-time.
During her time in BPS libraries, Cookie relied on support from Boston Partners to maximize her efficacy with the students. “I could call up [Program Director] Mike Redding about anything and it was never a dumb question to her. She was so sweet and nice. I asked if she could find a guest reader for the library and she searched through contacts, like Governor Weld, his wife, and then the author of Pilgrims of Plymouth and Dawn of the Breaking Day,” Cookie recalls. “Anytime I needed something I’d call Mike. I knew it wouldn’t cost me any money, I didn’t have to contact the principal—all I had to do was make the arrangements. It was wonderful.”
Cookie is just an example of the many individuals who benefited from their volunteer service with SVB (now Boston Partners in Education.) Our organization empowered people as mentors through the School Library Program to make a difference in their community, then find the skills and confidence to pursue careers themselves.