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Elder Mentors have been improving children’s success in Head Start, classroom and other community settings across Alaska for more than 30 years. By providing one-on-one help with school work, modeling social and cultural values, and offering emotional support to children with exceptional/special needs, Elder Mentor volunteers offer the intergenerational relationships so important to healthy child development. Alaska’s Elder Mentors serve through the national Foster Grandparent - Senior Corps Program.
Program goals include increasing school readiness for preschool children, increasing school success for K-12 students - and for all children, reinforcing social skills, cultural values and resilience. In 2014, approximately 150 Elder Mentors, volunteering in more than 50 villages or urban areas, will provide individual mentoring and tutoring to 500 children with special or exceptional needs – and support classroom learning for thousands more.
Supporting the Elder Mentor program is an investment in Alaska’s past, present and future, with powerful results. This program directly impacts three special groups:
- Children who are economically, socially, or developmentally disadvantaged increase their school success through individualized tutoring/mentoring.
- Low income Elders receive a small, tax exempt stipend and support for meals and transportation. Elder Mentor volunteers report mental or physical improvements from staying active in their community, while sharing their skills, culture and values with a new generation.
- Education Professionals benefit by having a supportive role model for the class and someone who can work with children needing extra help. Teachers often report that students are more engaged in learning when an Elder is present.
About the Elder Mentor Program
- Elder Mentors receive a small stipend of $2.65 per hour of service. In addition, they receive leave and holiday benefits. Transportation and meals (if not provided by the program or school) are reimbursed based on guidelines. Stipends are tax exempt.
- Elders receive monthly training, a Senior Corps vest and annual recognition.
- Elder Mentors are expected to spend approximately 20 hours per week with students during the school year. Participation in organized summer learning programs is encouraged, but not mandatory.
- Training time includes an extensive orientation and monthly workshops on topics that address child development, current education strategies, and also subjects of interest to seniors.
- Low income seniors, age 55 or older. Maximum household income levels are $27,200 for one person or $36,760 for two. Information for other household sizes is available.
- Seniors must pass and maintain status in the Alaska State Background Check System, which includes having fingerprints taken.
- Seniors must complete an annual wellness assessment. RurAL CAP will pay for this if it is not covered by insurance or IHS.
- Elder Mentors are expected to work directly with children. The goal for pre-school children is to increase readiness to enter kindergarten. The goal for older students is to increase engagement in school activities and learning.
- Elder Mentors bring compassion, social support, and cultural values to the students both individually, and classroom-wide. Activities include: talking, reading, playing games, helping with assignments, modeling appropriate behavior, participating in crafts, telling stories, teaching cultural skills and language.
School, Head Start or Community Setting and Supervision
- Supervising staff assign students to the Elders based on special needs and goals—about 4 students per Elder. A simple work plan is written to guide the Elder in the activities/goals for each student. The student’s progress is also noted on this form and reported.
- Each month, the Elder completes a time/activity sheet which the supervisor reviews and approves.
- Supervisors will occasionally receive short surveys to assess program success.
- The School/Supervisors will provide equipment to view, and documentation of, the Elder’s on-going training.
- Service site helps provide annual community recognition for Elders.
Contact RurAL CAP’s Elder Mentor Program at (907) 865-7276, Toll-free (800) 478-7227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
RurAL CAP Vision: Healthy People, Sustainable Communities, Vibrant Cultures