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Volunteering in Classrooms Impacts Generations

Mr. Rouse and Student-resized

Dedicating your time to help others is an altruistic way to make a difference in someone’s life.  But who gets the most out of a volunteer experience – the volunteer or the recipient?  Experience Corps recently sat down with two of their male DC-area volunteers, to learn more about their experiences with Experience Corps. Experience Corps is an AARP program that places adults age 50 and older in elementary schools to tutor and mentor students in reading and literacy.  These men spoke about how the work has impacted their lives, as well as the lives of the children they reach.

Robert Rouse and Peter Perl began their journey with AARP Experience Corps because they each find working with children rewarding.  Rouse was a firefighter in Prince George’s County, retired after being injured in a natural gas explosion, but had volunteered with children for eighteen years prior to joining AARP Experience Corps.  Perl was a journalist for forty-two years, most recently with The Washington Post.  Though journalism was his first love, he had always had an interest in working with children.

The men say the children in the schools in which they volunteer are always excited to see them in the classroom.  Though the effusive greetings are definitely part of the positive experience, the volunteers both said that seeing the children grow more confident as their reading skills improve, is the most rewarding.
When talking about the children he works with, Rouse recalls a time one of the children he mentored entered his first spelling bee, going far in the competition, “The way he came out of his shell was amazing.”
Perl agrees, “There are several ‘Aha!’ moments when a child realizes they can do something on their own…you can see the pride and the brightness in their eyes.”

Both men feel that retired adults have a rich life experience to offer children, and the relationship that develops is different than that of someone younger.  Perl notes the comfort the kids feel around older adults who care about them.  Rouse agrees, “The relationship with an older adult gives the children the opportunity to see things from a different perspective on the experiences they may be going through, because we’ve already been through it.”  Both men note that the children really look up to AARP Experience Corps volunteers, and they get to be a positive force in a child’s life.

Teachers appreciate the difference AARP Experience Corps volunteers make in their classroom too, with 83 percent saying volunteers had an impact on bringing students toward reading on grade level.  In addition, 87 percent reported that having a volunteer in the classroom gave them more time to assist students who were struggling academically.  One teacher says of a volunteer, “[She] is an asset to my classroom.  She provides an outstanding service to the kids.  Additionally, she always has a smile on her face.  The kids adore [her].”

Volunteering with AARP Experience Corps is a chance to expand your reality, according to Perl.  While he admits that working with the urban school system has its challenges, he suggests that if older adults are “willing to take on a serious challenge, overall, it’ll really be worth it.  You feel like you are part of a bigger effort…(I believe) the volunteer gets more out of it than the kid does because it’s very refreshing and very stimulating to get out of your own world, which can narrow after retirement.”

“You may not see the impact, or understand the impact, but it goes far deeper and wider than we can ever imagine,” Rouse added, “A program like [AARP] Experience Corps can impact generations.”

Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with AARP Experience Corps in the DC Metro area?  Come to one of these information sessions  by using one of the links below:

July 2nd: 10:30 am – 11:30 am; http://aarp.cvent.com/d/74q2f1
July 15th: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm; http://aarp.cvent.com/d/24q2fq
August 6th: 10:30 am – 11:30 am; http://aarp.cvent.com/d/q4q2fz
August 19th: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm; http://aarp.cvent.com/d/s4q2f2

All sessions will be held at AARP Headquarters, 601 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20049 in the ‘B’ building, 2nd floor, room 130.  You can also contact AARP Experience Corps by calling 202.424.6495 or emailing: dcexperiencecorps@aarp.org

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