Illana Plotkin


After graduating from University of Florida in the state where she grew up, Illana took a leap of faith and moved to New York City to live near her sister and began working in finance. She spent 10 years in NYC, and during a visit to a friend in Houston less than two years ago, fell in love with our city and relocated. “It was the right time and the right place,” says Illana. Illana secured a job as an executive assistant to the communications and public affairs officer at the Phillips 66 headquarters and has loved her job and everything that Houston has to offer. Last year Illana was offered the opportunity to volunteer through Phillips 66 on a project they help fund, called Read Houston Read. The literacy program is in Houston Independent School District, through which volunteers can serve as reading mentors to first-graders 30 minutes, either in-person at a school or virtually via an online platform. Illana was a virtual mentor to Anthony. “I didn’t really know what to expect from this experience. I was pleasantly surprised by it and found myself looking forward to the 30 minutes each week spent volunteering. It was truly fulfilling.”

“I would applaud [Anthony’s] accomplishments and tell him what a good job he did. Positive feedback goes a long way with these kids.”

Illana had the opportunity to meet Anthony in person for the very first time after tutoring him for several weeks. “[Volunteers] came into the classroom, and it was like the ‘big reveal’ because up until then, we had only spoken on the phone. When I spotted the name ‘Anthony G.’ at one of the desks, I went over and introduced myself. He just had this huge smile on his face. That day I was on cloud nine. I remember going home and telling my friends, showing them all of our photos. It was such an amazing experience, because I met Anthony and his classmates, read with them, and felt the thirst for knowledge and learning in the room. I still think about that day and smile.”

When asked if she would volunteer again next year, Illana says, “Absolutely! I am sold. [Volunteering] is mutually advantageous. Everybody is a winner with Read Houston Read. I think there are many kids that don’t have a parent reading to them at home and could benefit from the program.”