For years Warren Rucker owned a sign business in greater Phoenix. As a small business owner, Rucker hired a lot of semi-skilled labor; mainly young people with a high school education. He says he was constantly surprised by the number of potential employees who were functionally illiterate despite having their high school diploma. Throughout his years in business, it worried him that so many young people didn’t seem to be getting the basics from their education.
That feeling stuck with him. Last year, after his business recovered the recession, Warren and his wife sold the sign company; leaving him with some time on his hands. He had always had a love of reading and instilled that same passion for books in his children, who are now grown. When he saw a newspaper article about the AARP Experience Corps program in Tempe, a program that utilizes the time and talents of adults to improve student reading literacy, he jumped at the chance.
“I didn’t know about this program before, but it seemed like the perfect fit for my skills and interests,” says Rucker. “If you can’t read, you really can’t do anything, least of all hold down a job.”
He went to an Experience Corps information session and signed on, and the rest is history.
AARP Experience Corps is actively seeking tutors for elementary school classrooms in Phoenix and Tempe for the 2014-2015 school year. Like Warren, volunteers need no experience to apply. Experience Corps recruits and trains our tutors in the summer months in order to serve children in the coming school year. Volunteers spend a minimum of five hours per week working with children to improve their reading proficiency in kindergarten through third grade. This is critical in Arizona, where a 2010 law mandates that children pass a reading proficiency test before moving forward to fourth grade.
This year, Warren Rucker was placed at Aguilar Elementary and has four students that he tutors weekly. He fondly calls them “his girls” and speaks proudly of their accomplishments.
Students who struggle with reading benefit from the program in more ways than just improved test scores. Teachers say students show increased confidence, better behavior and improved attendance as well. The tutors themselves benefit from increased brain health, as well as physical and mental health a as a direct result of their volunteer work.
Rucker says he gets deep satisfaction from his students reading gains. “My girls are smart and work hard to improve their reading skills. I’d like to think I have something to do with their success too.”
Those interested in learning more about the program should call 480-858-2464 in Tempe or 602-256-3248 in Phoenix; or click here to visit our volunteer portal.