“There’s something pretty magical that happens when you match up the generations. It’s a warm friendship, a trusting relationship, a mentor, a teacher; it’s somebody who cares about the child.”
– Catherine Mesaros, branch director at AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Experience Corps Philadelphia
Each year AARP Experience Corps Philadelphia volunteers provide nearly 100,000 hours of service for the schools. During the 2013-2014 school year, 250 volunteers will help change the reading level of more than 4,000 Philadelphia students.
This program targets students from kindergarten through third grade who test below grade level in reading proficiency. Most of these students come from disadvantaged homes and haven’t had the opportunity to learn to read. As the volunteers provide one-on-one reading support, homework help, and a consistent role model, the teaching evolves into more.
By committing three days a week during the school year to these children, the volunteers help boost reading levels by as much as two grade levels by age 9, and it may be a child’s only chance at receiving the assistance needed to succeed. In 2012, 94 percent of the children in the program started below grade level. Of those children, 61 percent saw improvement in all areas of reading.
The Subaru of America Foundation has provided a grant to expand the AARP program from 17 to 22 schools in the current school year. Funding also assists with the cost of volunteer training: 25 hours total, 10 of which must be completed before entering a classroom, where they are armed with a resource kit.
Learn more about Experience Corps.