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Seniors give back to students

April 27, 2012

Through the Washington County Commission on Aging's Intergenerational Tutoring Program, 30 seniors make a weekly connection with students in nine Washington County elementary and middle schools.

Senior volunteers also lend a hand in summer programs.

The Community Foundation's $10,000 grant to the Commission on Aging has enabled the addition of a part-time assistant to help coordinate new volunteers and add more schools to the program.

The Intergenerational Program is part of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program or RSVP at the Commission on Aging. Charlotte Levens, intergenerational program coordinator, said most volunteers tutor students in math and reading, one at a time or in small groups.

Some volunteers do clerical work for school staff. At Eastern Elementary School there is an entire room devoted to volunteer and student use.

Still other volunteers work in school libraries and one even rocks babies.

Levens said the typical commitment for volunteers is one hour or more a week. However, some volunteers put in many more hours.

Fountaindale Elementary School has a unique pilot program and places high value on its six senior volunteers from the Commission on Aging.

Denise Kuhna, Fountaindale's vice principal, cites the pilot and tutoring programs as giving students an academic leg up and a little extra TLC. She said the kids look forward to seeing their tutors who give them individual recognition and praise for hard work, which seems to have a positive effect on attendance.

Bill Greenwald, a first-grade teacher at Fountaindale, said the one-on-one contact that senior volunteers make with his students enhances classroom instruction.

When asked why she volunteers, Sally Hatch, a senior volunteer said, "I get to help the students develop a love of learning and the teachers appreciate the help in reinforcing basic reading, writing and math skills."

Ann Conrad, another senior volunteer, said "It feels so rewarding when I see the students make a connection."

In fact, Conrad still has a bond with a college student she tutored 15 years ago who recently called to express her gratitude.

Any senior interested in offering time and talent can call the Commission on Aging Inc at 301-790-0275. Levens  is available at ext. 203 and Beth Elliott, program assistant, is at ext. 256.

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