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AARP Foundation Experience Corps: Stories From Volunteer Members

There was this one student who had some behavior issues. He wore a t-shirt one day that said, “You are a genius.” And I said, “What does your t-shirt say?” He didn’t know. I said, “Your t-shirt says, ‘You are a genius.’” I said, “Do you know what? You’re a genius. You can do anything that other students can do. So, I want you to remember that when you put that t-shirt on, you hold your head held high. You hold your head high and you say, “I’m a genius.” From that moment on, I saw him grow to excellent on the behavior chart.

Brenda Hall, Volunteer
Lakeland Elementary and Middle School

I had a great experience with one of my students. She couldn’t read. And when she met me, she said, “Ms. Gross, I wanna learn how to read.” I said, “Baby, I’m gonna do everything in my power to help you learn how to read.” It was an African girl and her parents didn’t speak English, so she didn’t have help at home. But by the end of the semester, she was reading Martin Luther King books. I was very happy for her, and that made me want to come back and help others.

Charlene Gross, Volunteer
PS 36

It makes me feel good inside when I’ve left for the day. I have reached some child and to help them to do it to help them improve their whole life. And I feel good that I did it. I’m glad I came here.

Emma Archer, Volunteer
PS 36

I can see the inner emotions of the young child, I can see the love. I can see the respect they have for older adults. Sometimes, when they go out to recess and are playing basketball, I’ll shoot a couple of hoops, and they say, “Oh, look at Mr. Borden. I didn’t know he could do this.” And I’ll look at them and say, “Well, you’ll be able to do this when you get older.” So there is some — a definite relationship there. There’s bonding. And over a period of time, they have developed trust in me.

Guy Borden, Volunteer
Federal Hill Preparatory

I like reading here with the kids because most of them are here from the community that I live in and I see them all summer long. And just being able to see the smile on their face when I see them outside or they're in the store trying to read something and I walk up behind them and I say oh, I see you can read that now. “I can read the card, Ms. Cherry! Look, I can read the card!” The parents will turn around and say, “Hi, how you doing? Nice to meet you.” And the student will say, “She helped me read, Mommy. She helped me read.” You know, that’s a great achievement. I can leave out the store, tears in my eyes and, a smile on my face. That’s the best to me.

Michelle Cherry, Volunteer
Blackstone Elementary

The story that is always in the forefront of my mind is this little boy who said, “I’m just not smart.” It became my project to help him and he became my buddy and we did awesome and yes, he could read and yes, he would read aloud. And he could write beautifully and when it came down to drawing pictures, he would draw beautifully. This from a child who said, “I can’t do it. I’m just not smart.” And the best part was when the teacher said, “Your child has moved from this level all the way here, two steps up.” We just bust out started crying because this was a kid who said, “I can’t do it.”

Tina Bates, Volunteer
Henderson Hopkins Elementary

They see someone they can they can depend upon. They see someone that cares. They see someone that’s really interested in them improving in literacy. You can actually see when they grasp how to read. There’s joy. There’s a smile. Sometimes you get a hug and they continuously will bring a book to you that they want to read and know more about. So they become active, active participants in their reading once they acquire the reading skills.

Victoria Boswell, Volunteer
Hampstead Hill Academy

I think this is a very rewarding program. At the end of the year, team members ask, “Would you come back?” I say, “Yes.” And some of my friends ask, “You gonna go back?” I say, “Yes, I like it.” There are other things that I could be doing. But, “I like it.” It gives you the opportunity to see the other side of the education program, not from just what you hear on TV. Also, there’s the camaraderie. I’m still friends with one member who left. I’ve met a friend.

Hope Gleaton, Volunteer
Cramp Elementary

Whatever you do, don’t stop doing this, because children need an adult to model, to teach them, to guide them. Not only that but to inspire them, to build their confidence that if  "I try and I don’t give up, I can do anything." These little ones, we have to teach them that. We have to train them.

Abda Lee, Teacher
Blackstone Elementary