Senior Corps Volunteers in the Schools
by Michele Lytle, RSVP Program Coordinator
Does it get any better than having multiple generations working together to learn from and teach each other? Foster Grandparents and RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) Education Coaches serve in schools and make a difference in the lives of our students by getting to know them and supporting them not only in academics but also by listening and sharing their own experiences. These volunteers serve through Senior Corps, volunteer programs sponsored by Northern Arizona University’s Civic Service Institute. They are volunteer programs for people over the age of 55 that train people who are interested in working with students to be effective tutors and mentors. Volunteers serve in classrooms and are assigned to children who would benefit from the attention, wisdom, patience, and skills of an older person.
Foster Grandparents and RSVP Education Coaches serve in communities all over Arizona. We currently have 150 volunteers serving in 10 communities from Yuma and Tucson to the Hopi Reservation. In the 2016-2017 school year, our volunteers served more than 800 students and 93% demonstrated improvement in academic performance.
In Flagstaff, 35 Foster Grandparents and RSVP Education Coaches serve in FUSD schools. Many of our volunteers serve in grades K-3 and assist with social-emotional skills and the fundamentals of math, reading, and problem solving. We have several volunteers serving in the upper elementary, middle, and high school and they support older students with math and reading to gain a mastery of those subjects while empowering them to think critically and be creative. The students garner a value of diversity as our volunteers come from all walks of life.
Our programs are beneficial for everyone involved. The students are clearly positively impacted by their relationships with the volunteers but the volunteers share how much they learn from the students. The world has changed since they were in school and being in the schools and spending time with the students exposes them to new ways of thinking and a young person’s perspective. The teachers also benefit from having dedicated classroom support. One teacher recently shared her appreciation of a longtime Foster Grandparent: “Ms. April works with some of my most struggling students. If she were not here to give these students small group instruction, they be lost in the difficult content. The students and I would be worse off without her help and encouragement.”
It is our belief that everyone in our community has a duty to help our children get the best education possible, whether they volunteer as a tutor, take a special interest in the neighborhood children, or donate to their local school. You or someone you know could become a Foster Grandparent or RSVP Education Coach and make that difference to the children of our community. All volunteers must be at least 55 years old. Foster Grandparents earn a stipend for their service and are required to volunteer at least 15 hours a week during the school year. RSVP Education Coaches serve at least once a week without a stipend. All volunteers receive training and can request the school and grade of their choice. We do our best to honor these requests.
Please consider becoming a partner in helping Flagstaff achieve a world-class education community-wide. You can volunteer and/or spread the word about our programs. We are recruiting now so our volunteers can be ready for the upcoming school year!
For more information, please call or email: