October 1, 2013

RSVP – Lead With Experience

By Bill Sedlacek
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
of Eastern Iowa and Western Illnois

Bill Bomberry:
Combining Technical Skill with Human Compassion to Help Young People

In retrospect, the Bettendorf Library was a fitting place to meet Bill Bomberry to hear about his recent Outstanding Service Award from the Bi-State Literacy Council and discuss his continuing efforts to mentor and tutor United Township High School students. As we sat in the warm sunlight of the library’s patio, I could not help but reflect on how much Bill and his fellow volunteers enrich the lives of others with the sunshine of their mentoring and tutoring programs.

The discussion of the award was a short one. Bill modestly avoided a lot of discussion of it, but did say how moved he was by the ceremony and how he felt as though he got more in personal satisfaction by volunteering than he gave to his volunteer work. That is what I hear from most everyone I have interviewed, and I would challenge any one on the fence about doing volunteer work to give it a try. You might feel the same way.

Bill, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, retired from the Information Technology area of John Deere five years ago. During his 31 years at Deere, he did occasional instructional work in new software development techniques, making him a good fit for the mentoring and tutoring program of Bi-State Literacy.

After retiring, he began volunteering as a HALO mentor at the Annie Wittenmyer Center in Davenport, working with the young residents sent there because of troubled home environments or delinquent behaviors. HALO (Helping and Loving Others) is a mentoring program of Children and Families of Iowa which provides comprehensive training for potential mentors of highly at-risk youth. While at Wittenmyer, Bill worked with the HALO Coordinator, Chantell Lamont, for whom he has high praise. She had been in the same environment as those he was trying to helpn and she was instrumental in helping him to understand their behavior patterns and how he could best work with them. During the discussion of his Annie Wittenmyer experience, he said he had a childhood he would describe as “chaotic” and wanted to help those who might have had much the same experience. It says a lot about Bill to know this and realize that he went on to a college degree, a professional career and now spends over 20 hours a week helping others.

He also worked at Glenview Middle School, closer to his East Moline home. He soon went on to dividing his time between Glenview and United Township High School. Now he spends 20 plus hours a week tutoring mathematics and some chemistry at United Township. He says he enjoyed working with all of the kids, but prefers working at the high school level. He finds it more satisfying and believes he can better relate to the older kids. Perhaps they are in a period of development where his accumulated knowledge can be of more benefit to the subject matter taught at that level.

While his job is providing subject matter knowledge, he understands how important it is to help the whole person. He says that he does not have to be an authority figure as a teacher does, but can be more of a helpful friend. If the student opens up to him about personal matters, he sometimes prompts them to talk to their guidance counselor. One of the “feel good” moments of his work is when a student recognizes him in the hallway and says “Hi”, “Hello” or (I would guess) “Wassup.”

His wife, Deb, also is retired from the information technology area of Deere and now volunteers with her church. He describes her as a giving and caring person. In my mind, that makes two of them. The world would be a much better place if there were even more like them.

If you wish to combine your technical or scientific skills with your human compassion to make a real difference in young people’s lives and education, contact RSVP at (309) 793-4425 and ask for Julie or email jross@wiaaa.org.

Filed Under: Community