Community Heroes: Tualatin couple is all about education
You might say that Bob and Judy Nix are hooked on volunteering.
Whether it's teaching Greek students English or stepping up to help homeless families in need, the Tualatin residents are ready to go.
Tualatin residents for the last 15 years, the Nixes traveled to Crete — the largest of Greece's islands — in May 2019 as part of a program coordinated by Global Volunteers, a nonprofit and nonsectarian development assistance organization. There, they taught English to children ages 8 through high school.
While Greek students start taking English classes in the second grade, and all students are expected to pass an English proficiency test before they leave high school, some students need extra help, the Nixes explained.
"To get a good job in Greece … you have to have English proficiency, whether you're a cab driver, (work) in a restaurant or a bank, or even to get into a university. So they are really motivated," said Bob Nix, a retired lumber mill manager.
The Nixes taught their English classes in a woman's home where she hosted as many as 40 students, many of them from lower-income families. Some of the students came from the poorer neighboring country of Albania (about 3% of Greece's population was born in Albania).
Judy Nix said all Greek students know that in order to get into any university, they have to have a solid grasp of English.
"We were there right before (students) were doing their English proficiency," she said. "(It's) really rigorous, and especially (with) the high school students, because it was going to mean a ticket to getting into college or if they were just going to work. They knew they would be chosen over other people if they could speak English well."
What impressed Judy Nix most was the answer she got when she asked one high school student how important it was for her to learn how to speak English well.
"And she said, 'Well, it's very important to me, but it means everything to my parents, because they are sacrificing'" to afford English lessons for their daughter, said Judy Nix, who formerly worked in human resources. "It was really a positive experience for me, and working with children, that's what I really like."
What Bob Nix found astounding was the mastery many of the students showed in their English skills.
"If you were to talk to some of those, like the high school kids, they are like talking to someone from California," he said. "You would not know they had an accent or that they were from a foreign country."
Judy Nix said one of the volunteers was a young woman who said volunteering with Global Volunteers helped her solidify her desire to become a teacher.
"The great thing was it affirmed she was choosing the right path," she said.
But teaching English overseas hasn't been the couple's only volunteer experience.
Bob Nix currently works for AARP's Safe Driver Program, teaching classes several times a month and in charge of covering six counties. The class, which teaches driver safety, attracts senior citizens throughout the area.
"I had a guy … 100 years old, take a class in Tualatin," he said. "People come up afterwards and say they've learned something and they're going to change something about their driving. Probably 90% of people do that."
They have both served as deacons in their church — Tualatin Presbyterian Church —Â with Judy Nix serving as a human resources elder for six years and recently being appointed to a position that integrates new people into their church.
In addition, she is one of the founding members of Family Promise of Tualatin Valley, a nonprofit organization that serves homeless children and their families. During a portion of the COVID-19 pandemic, she ran a furniture ministry from the basement of Tualatin Presbyterian that helped families in need after they secured suitable housing.
"I think it's a way to put your faith in action, too," she said of the organization that helps "people on the edge."
Judy Nix added that she likes volunteering because it's a chance to give back to people, and at the same time, receive an even greater reward back in the process.
Editor's note: This feature originally appeared in Pamplin Media Group's 2021 Community Heroes special publication.
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