Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser

Blog Stephanie McLemore Bray
October 2018 Blog, Stephanie Bray 

I was born in October and every year I become quite pensive as my birthday approaches. I often reflect on my life up to this point, especially my childhood. I chuckle when I think about how I once believed that anyone older than 50 was really old and pretty much done with life.

Imagine that! Now that I am in my fifties, I am grateful and privileged to lead a life dedicated to serving others and I still feel like I am just getting started! Every day is an opportunity to leave the world a little bit better a place than it was the day before. At United Way, our Experience Corps volunteers share that same passion.

Experience Corps is our United Way’s partnership with AARP to help kids who struggle to read stay on track. Volunteers who are age 50 and older tutor small groups of first through third-graders in the classroom or after school two to three days a week. Our Experience Corps results are remarkable. 

During the 2016-2017 school year, 27 Experience Corps volunteers helped 273 students in 9 schools across 4 school districts. 71% of local students who were below grade level at the beginning of the year improved their reading and literacy performance by half a grade level or more compared to 67% nationally. 42% of local students improved by a full grade level or more compared to 30% nationally. And 38% of local students were at or above grade level by the end of the year compared to 29% nationally. 

Grade-level reading is a cornerstone of our Square One Project to end poverty – starting at school. By fourth grade, children are reading in order to learn. Therefore, if they are not reading at grade-level, they will not only fall further and further behind, but are also far more likely to drop out of high school.  

Our Experience Corps volunteers tell us time and again that they get so much more out of volunteering than they could ever give. When surveyed, 100% of volunteers felt that the Experience Corps program helped them stay physically active, increased their sense of purpose in life and helped them make a difference in the community. Nearly 90% reported that the program helped expand their social network. You can read the full 2016-2017 Experience Corps report here.

Teachers love Experience Corps, too. 92% of teachers reported that the Experience Corps volunteers had a moderate or strong influence on student reading and literacy performance. 87% reported that the volunteers had a moderate or strong influence on student academic engagement behaviors, such as motivation, concentration, participation, or self-confidence. Kids who receive tutoring support are more excited to come to school and experience fewer behavior issues. 

So, if you are 50 or older and want to give some of your time to change the life of kid struggling to read, Experience Corps is for you! Join us at one of our upcoming Experience Corps orientation sessions and help change a life today!