Our Experience Corps project: Changing the lives of 40 students!

Experience Corps

CLICK HERE to support this campaign!

COVID-19 UPDATE: As of now, the Experience Corps program has been suspended for the balance of the 2019-2020 school year. This had to happen: The schools are closed, for obvious reasons, and we have to protect the senior citizens, who are at high risk with the virus.

That’s the sad news. The good news? We will continue this campaign, but will shift it to sponsor Charles Darwin Elementary for the 2020-2021 school year! I’m also going to bump up our financial target to $15,000, to help defray some of the costs from the previous school that we originally intended to sponsor.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, where we change the lives of forty kids!

FUNDRAISING STATUS: As of June 3, 2020, in terms of raising cash/securing pledges, we have achieved 57% towards our campaign goal of $15,000

Working for Charles Darwin Elementary!

When trying to have an impact on the world, it’s a wonderful thing when you can “kill two birds with one stone.”

We’ve chosen to support the AARP Foundation Experience Corps which connects older adults to their communities by helping struggling young students improve their reading skills. This program supports seniors, who need socialization for improved mental health, and enables them to teach and mentor youth who are struggling to read.

Chronic isolation and loneliness affects almost 20% of all seniors, and this leads to negative health effects. That’s unhealthy for individuals and communities. Chronic isolation and loneliness are worse for health than smoking or obesity, especially in people over 50 — and when older adults withdraw from their communities, taking with them their knowledge, perspective and talents, we are all diminished.

At the same time, roughly 65% of public school fourth-graders cannot read proficiently. These are staggering numbers. The program has a very impressive success rate. Students who worked with an Experience Corps volunteer saw more than 60% greater gains in critical literacy skills compared with students NOT in the program.

So, we’re excited to announce that we’ve pledged to sponsor the program for Charles Darwin Elementary, a Chicago-based school!

It will cost $15,000 to sponsor this elementary school for the 2020-2021 school year — SERVING forty students! This funding places six volunteers (called Tutor/Mentors) in the school, covers their extensive training, pays a small travel stipend, and provides all student reading materials as well as professional supervision of the volunteer team.

Most schools, particularly in lower income areas like Charles Darwin, simply cannot afford these costs.

I had the opportunity not only to meet with the Chicago-area program director, Gregary Brown (who joined us on The Foundation Podcast), but also to actually tour Charles Darwin Elementary itself.

I also met with Daniel de los Reyes, the school principal, several student leaders who led our school tour, and some of the program volunteer/mentors. I was able to observe these mentors working with kids in the program, and it was exciting to witness this; to see the program in action, to see the magic happening…lives changing right in real time.

You wouldn’t quite believe this school. It was inspiring. As the student leaders briefed us, “we are taught to be leaders here.” In fact, and this blew my mind, these students (remember, this is an elementary school), are coached on Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I was thirty years old when I first read that book…

Walking around the school, the kids were encouraged to be creative and paint inspirational murals everywhere, showcasing leaders that moved them, and pushing them to excel and achieve big things. You’re looking at a few of the images embedded in this post. The students were clearly very, very proud of their school.

But this doesn’t change the fact that this is a low-income school, dual-language, and struggling with very tight budgets. Not long ago, the school was on a short-list to be closed. It’s a credit to the administrators and teachers that it is now recognized for serving their student body well. They are clearly devoted to these children, and that’s why they’ve requested help to continue participating in the Experience Corps program, and that’s where you and I come in.

Again, we have pledged to raise $15,000 to support the AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps program at Charles Darwin Elementary. As of this writing, we have raised 57% towards that goal, and we are aiming to meet our goal by the end of summer, 2020.

CLICK HERE to formally partner with our foundation to enable Charles Darwin Elementary and its amazing students the chance to become better readers, which will have a lifelong impact on them, and benefit the community. The chance to support ONE campaign that will benefit seniors, children, AND their school is an opportunity we cannot pass up! Thanks for your consideration!

Email me here with any questions!

Taking this project to the next level: Corporate/Foundation partnerships!

Fully funding the campaign for Charles Darwin elementary is obviously our immediate first priority. But, and especially after talking with many of you, there are obvious larger and more audacious opportunities.

Here are just two of the possibilities:

First, many of you have said you are willing to support our commitment to Charles Darwin Elementary, but in the future, would like to support a school in your own community. So, we might be able to set-up separate projects that raise funds for schools in your area, using our foundation’s infrastructure to manage the campaign.

Two, personally, my next move will be to seek partnerships with other foundations and corporate entities and sponsor a much larger reach in the Chicago area. There is a lot of additional need for this program locally, and we want to help with that growth. Email me if you want to explore this further!