UPDATE: As of February 4, 2020, we have raised just over 40% of our goal for this project!
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 $13,000 to sponsor this elementary school for the 2019-2020 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 recently had the opportunity not only to meet with the Chicago-area program director, Gregary Brown (who will soon join 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 $13,000 to support the AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps program at Charles Darwin Elementary. As of this writing, we have raised 35% towards that goal, and we are aiming to meet our goal by the end of the first quarter, March 31st, 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!