Experience Corps Creates Opportunities for Young Students and Older Volunteers

A program at the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut is places older volunteers as reading tutors in New Haven schools.

An experience corps volunteer works with a young pupil.

Schools with limited resources have young students who need help learning to read. Meanwhile, there are retired older adults in the community who are searching for meaningful opportunities to volunteer. A program at the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut is providing the perfect match.

The Experience Corps program recruits, screens, and trains older volunteers for placement as reading tutors in classrooms throughout New Haven, Hamden, and East Haven. Established locally in 2006, the Agency on Aging program is part of the national program of the AARP Foundation. A multi-year grant (2017-19) from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven is supporting the tutoring of about 700 kids in area public schools both during the school day and after school.

The presence of older adult volunteers improves student behaviors in elementary schools, according to research conducted on the Experience Corps model. Volunteers tutor twice a week, and work with teachers to develop a schedule; classroom teachers assure that the tutoring is consistent with the literacy curriculum by providing tutoring materials.

The program benefits both students and their tutors. Over the recent grant term, the majority of the students in the program raised their reading levels and nine in ten participants received improved academic engagement ratings from their teachers. For the volunteer tutors, the engagement helps reduce the isolation experienced by many older adults; being part of a team of volunteers provides inherent support and social network. Nearly 100 percent of the volunteers reported that the program helped them make a difference in the community.

Learn more about the Agency of Aging of South Central Connecticut on giveGreater.org.

Did you know?

The state of Connecticut had the ninth highest percentage of people over 65 years old. In New Haven, 20% of the residents are over the age of 60. Source: 2010 U.S. Census.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.