The NRTA With Our Youth! program is a volunteer service initiative implemented by retired educators associations and open to age-50+ adults nationwide. The initiative brings volunteers to work with children and youth to provide meaningful educational and life-skills support. NRTA With Our Youth! was formed in response to the 1997 Presidents' Summit for America's Future, at which the NRTA network made, a three-year pledge to provide 45 million volunteer service hours with 1.5 million youth in 2,000 communities. The goal was met and exceeded. Since 1999, With Our Youth! has reached more than 2.5 million young people in over 42 states.
The NRTA With Our Youth! program continues to grow and expand. Through it, young people have been inspired to reach their full potential because an adult took the time to be part of their lives. The Tenth Annual NRTA With Our Youth! Award recipients were chosen in the state, local and individual categories by an independent selection panel.
Excellence Award recipients include:
Virginia Retired Teachers Association
Retired educators from 14 local units of the Virginia Retired Teachers Association helped youth throughout the state. Members were involved in a range of activities that fulfilled the five promises of the NRTA With Our Youth! program including: providing an ongoing relationship with a caring adult; a healthy start in life; safe places to learn and grow; a marketable skill upon graduation; and an opportunity to serve in their communities. Retired teachers provided on-going relationships with the youth through activities such as reading to students, assisting them with projects, tutoring, leading sing-alongs and becoming lunch buddies. Strong bonds and friendships resulted from their involvement.
The projects occurred in schools, churches, libraries, day care facilities and camps – all safe places for the children. In many cases the retired teachers also provided the youth with basic needs such as school supplies, clothing, books, eye screenings and glasses. They also created activities to prepare pre-schoolers for going to school.
Life, leadership and marketable skills were provided to youth through activities such as scouting, 4-H projects, tutoring, projects and contests. There were also opportunities for the youth to give back to their community through career fairs, scholarships for future teachers, the Partnership with the Arts, voter registration and public speaking.
Retired educators were asked to keep track of their volunteer hours on the project and reported a total of 23,209 hours of service providing help to an impressive 27,329 youth throughout the state of Virginia.
Alabama – Conecuh County Education Retirees Association
Six members of the Conecuh County Education Retirees Association volunteered to receive extensive training by JA Worldwide (formerly Junior Achievement) to bring much needed financial planning information to middle and high school students in Conecuh County, a rural economically deprived area in Southern Alabama. The volunteers focused on financial literacy, meeting with students once a week for six weeks. Each lesson included much-needed one-on-one attention. While the students already knew they would need to make money to survive, the program taught them how to better handle their money. One high school and one middle school were chosen for the program, with 60 percent of those involved coming from single parent families. A total of 282 youth, or 80 percent of the students in the two schools received this important training.
The students had little interest in the information they were learning until they were able to perform hands-on activities including making bank deposits, dealing with identity theft and managing money effectively. After a short period of time, the students reported taking the information they learned home and helping their parents with financial matters such as why they need car insurance and the benefits of having a checking account. The program gave the students a feeling of empowerment and made them feel good about being able to share their new knowledge with their family and friends. Retired educator volunteer Johnny Davis stated, “This program taught students how to be effective consumers. At the beginning it was all Greek to them and in just six weeks students were ready to face real life decisions.” Many of the students were accustomed to their parents paying their bills by cash or money order so it was enlightening to learn the advantages of having a bank account and balancing it each month as well as overall budget management. Students also learned about the importance of having and keeping a good credit score, and saving and investing in the future – a milestone for most of the participants. The program emphasized the need to stay in school, illustrating how dropping out of school has a negative impact on their future potential earnings. “It is believed by the retirees and administrators in Conecuh County that this program has truly changed the lives of many of these students and their families,” stated Janice Charlesworth, Executive Secretary of the Alabama Education Retirees Association, who nominated the program for this award.
Ohio – Trumbull Chapter Ohio Retired Teachers Association
With the impetus of the Sutliff Museum curator, three members of the Trumbull Chapter Ohio Retired Teachers Association helped develop an Underground Railroad Suitcase Program for fourth grade students. The Sutliffs, for whom the museum is named, were pioneers in Trumbull County, Ohio and were abolitionists active in the Underground Railroad. The curator and volunteers were eager to develop and present this program so that the youth in the community could learn about their local history and the major role which the county played in the anti-slavery movement.
The retirees have been presenting the Underground Railroad Suitcase Program for approximately three years. The lessons take place in the classroom, at the Museum and at historic sites within TrumbullCounty. Retired educators also provide book bags (filled with information and worksheets) to the teachers to help them know more about the history of slavery and the Underground Railroad in their community with the hope that they will weave relevant content into their social studies curriculum.
Betty Jean Bahmer, the local community service chair, stated, “The children are especially attentive as symbols of slavery are shown (bull whip, chains, a hobble, lanterns, etc.) and stories are told about slaves and what happens when they try to escape…At the conclusion of the program, the children are eager to ask questions…” The students are also shown the route that some slaves have taken from the South through Ohio and into Canada for the sake of freedom.
The Underground Railroad Suitcase Program has been taught to ten fourth grade classes, three high school classes, two classes at a college and a group of Girl Scouts. In all, about 300 students have participated so far and Bahmer adds, “We hope to continue this program indefinitely.”
In addition to the aforementioned program, members commit a significant amount of time to other projects benefiting the youth in their community. The retired educators chair and coordinate the county-wide spelling bee at the Trumbull County Fair each year. They are also involved with judging the 4-H booths at the fair and providing evaluations to the youth about their project to help their future entries. Some retirees assist teachers in the reading program while others work on-on-one with students to improve reading skills. In addition to all their volunteer work in their community, each year the Association provides ten $500 scholarships to graduating seniors.
Washington – SnoIsle Unit #22 School Retirees
Members of the SnoIsle #22 School Retirees Association partnered with the Everett (Washington) Children’s Museum to help with a Veteran’s Day project called a Veterans’ Wall of Remembrance. The retirees worked with children to make paper “bricks” with a service person’s name affixed and placed on an outside wall of the building. Adults also joined in because they were eager to help and recognize family and friends. Linda Averill, of Marysville, stated that “the bricks were a success and covered one side of the building went around the corner and halfway down the second wall, drawing much attention from passers-by.” An estimated 2,000 bricks were made and included active and inactive service people both living and deceased. On Veterans Day, many service retirees brought their uniforms and talked to youngsters about their military experience. The children also made over 40 postcards that were sent to Veterans, many in a nearby Seattle VA Hospital, with postage paid for by the school retirees.
Many people expressed their appreciation for being able to publicly say thank you to veterans. Parents, scoutmasters and museum staff said the SnoIsle Retiree Veterans made the history lesson more real.