On Being a NAJIT Volunteer

I used to think that to be an association volunteer you needed to be extraordinary, extremely qualified, have all sorts of accreditations, certifications, a long resume, and be known to all in the profession.  However, all you need is to have the will, the time, the commitment, and a passion for Translation and Interpretation (T&I).

During the fall of 2015, I received an email from a board member asking if I would be interested in being a Conference Committee member. It was a call that would change my life! I reluctantly accepted more out of a sense of obligation, because of who this person was more than for any other reason. I was very committed to the profession and since learning about the certification process and the existence of T&I associations, I had become a big promoter of both, but I could not figure out how I could possibly contribute to the organization of a conference.

I had been a certified interpreter for only a couple of years with little experience working in the courts, and I had been a member of NAJIT for barely two years. Fortunately and to my surprise, it turned out that there were many things I could do. First and foremost, I was well aware of the types of presentations my colleagues and I needed and wanted to improve our skills. I also learned that I had a knack for writing marketing pieces, and that I was also able to come up with catchy phrases to promote presentations and workshops. I had the time and was willing to dedicate it to the selection of presentations, programs, promotional items, and to generally participate.

A few months later I received an email from the Nominations Committee asking me to run for the Board. Someone had nominated me! At that point I knew only three NAJIT members other than my Membership Committee colleagues. To this day I am not sure who nominated me, but that person did me a great favor.

When the NAJIT Board called to ask me to be an interim board member in September of 2016, my father had just passed away less than a week before, and NAJIT volunteer work turned out to be a life saver. It gave me something to get passionate about and to pour all my energies, soul, and heart into. Doing something useful and beneficial for my profession has meant the world to me. As I write this today, life has been tough for me due to COVID-19, and some very personal losses, but I continue to get a  thrill from contributing my small part every day to improving our professions and leaving it better than I found it.

I just want you to know that NAJIT, your beloved association, needs your skills. Are you good at moderating webinars, event coordination, sales, presenting on academic subjects, writing and/or editing, fundraising, marketing, planning, drawing, working with Excel, using remote video remote platforms, public relations or graphic design? NAJIT can use all of these talents and many more. Whether you are an old-timer or new to the profession, to NAJIT, or to certification, you should not be deterred from participating. Do not underestimate what you have to offer.

Besides serving the Association, there are also many benefits to be gained from your participation. After I became a NAJIT volunteer, my career really took off because through my volunteer activities I gained exposure, experience, networking opportunities, information, all of which contributed to building my self-confidence.  I can attest that volunteering really does give you a sense of accomplishment.

Following my volunteering for NAJIT, I was hired as  a staff interpreter for Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey, and am now certified in three other states.  I have also achieved a high enough score in the Federal Oral exam to know that I have a very good chance of attaining Federal Certification. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to be both Director and Treasurer on the NAJIT Board, as well as to serve as Conference Committee Chair and an Advocacy Committee member. I was also President of the New York Circle of Translators while serving on the NAJIT Board.

Being a volunteer has become part of my identity and I love the satisfaction of belonging to a dedicated group of individuals that strive to fulfill NAJIT’s vision to improve and promote T&I professional standards and provide members with a conduit to continuous professional news and information, skills building opportunities, and update on the latest innovations in the profession.

Given my personal enriching experience, I want to encourage those who are not yet members to join our association and those who are already members to join in our exciting projects. NAJIT currently has the following needs:

Two volunteers to moderate the NAJIT Listserv and assist with its transition to Google Groups, as well as to work with the Board in updating user guidelines and policies.

Volunteers to work with the leaders of the Listserv these committees and other members serving on the Bylaws & Governance Committee, the Nominations Committee, and the Advocacy Committee.

NAJIT needs you to become involved and be part of the effort to disseminate the most current information on professional  issues that are important to all of us, and to help shape our governing bylaws, policies, and  guidelines.

We would love to have you onboard!

Hilda Zavala
Treasurer, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators

Committee Information page
Volunteer Form


Hilda Zavala is a state certified/approved Spanish court interpreter and translator with more than thirteen years of experience in legal, medical, corporate, and non-profit settings in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  She is an active and voting member of NAJIT, ATA, the NYCT and other professional groups.  She is also former president of the New York Circle of Translators and former board member (director, treasurer), conference committee chair, and advocacy committee member of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. Hilda has two certificates of Legal Interpreting: Spanish/English, the latest one from NYU. Hilda has been a Staff Interpreter at Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey for over 4 years.  Born in Chicago, Hilda lived for 20 years in Mexico and loves traveling.  She continuously looks for opportunities to promote and advance the interpreting profession.

Contact: hzavala@najit.org

4 thoughts on “On Being a NAJIT Volunteer”

  1. Gladys Matthews says:

    Thanks for this post, Hilda, which resonated with me greatly. I had a very similar experience with volunteer work; first in Denver and later in Indianapolis, along with our work with NAJIT. You touched on four key points about what it takes to make a difference through volunteer work: will, time, commitment, and passion. While all four points are essential, I would highlight time and commitment. We all know that having good intentions is not enough; dedicating time and making a real commitment are what truly makes a difference. NAJIT’s call for volunteers just went out and I hope your post will motivate many members to sign up. It certainly motivated me.

    Thanks again, what a great way to end the week.

  2. Gio Lester says:

    Being a volunteer is part of my DNA. Don’t ask me how it got there, it just is. I have been volunteering since I was a kid and, at 60, I don’t see when I am going to stop.

    You see, volunteering is addictive. You get so much back, you grow so much and it becomes a way of life. The people you meet, the connections you make, even friendships develop along the way. But the best part is to watch the result of the job YOU are doing take shape, grow, and continue on.

    I am happy I had the courage to accept Maria Cristina’s invitation to join the original team of writers for The NAJIT Observer. That led to many other opportunities to volunteer within NAJIT and many new friends.

    Take a leap of faith. Check your schedule, see if you can find 20 extra minutes a week or a month and volunteer!

  3. Andreea says:

    Great post! I’ve had the same struggle with figuring out where and how to contribute in the past.

  4. Hilda E. Shymanik says:

    Thank you for your great comments my dear Gladys, Andreea and Gio! I hope our collective experience motivates other members. If there are any questions regarding volunteering please do not hesitate to send me an email at hshymanik@najit.org.

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