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NRTA's 17th Annual With Our Youth Awards

Recognizing the exceptional community service of retired educators nationwide

NRTA: AARP’s Educator Community creates real possibilities to strengthen America’s working and retired education community by protecting its financial security and fostering collaboration and volunteerism.

The NRTA With Our Youth! Program was established to provide opportunities for retired educators and youth to work together to address the needs of youth and the broader community. State and local retired educators association (REA) volunteers use the resources provided by NRTA to organize local self-sustaining service projects.

In 1997, NRTA made a three-year pledge at the President’s Summit for America’s Future to serve 1.5 million youth in 2,000 communities, with a total of 45 million service hours through the REAs. That goal was exceeded, and the program continues today. Each year, the organization provides national NRTA With Our Youth! volunteer awards to recognize the outstanding work of state and local REAs as well as individual volunteers. More information is available here.

The recipients of NRTA’s 17th Annual With Our Youth! awards were chosen by an independent selection panel for their outstanding service to youth in the state, local and individual categories.  

Alfred Campos, Director for NRTA: AARP’s Educator Community, said about the award winners: “I am always amazed by the great work that retired educators do in service of our nation’s children, individuals, and families. A spirit of volunteerism is very much a part of the retired educator community and the 2017 NRTA With Our Youth! winners best exemplify that spirit. The 2017 awardees have enriched the lives of all they have served and NRTA is honored to celebrate their accomplishments.

2017 Excellence Award recipients include:

Individual Category

Gloria Jean Williams of the Alabama Education Retirees Association won first place for the SKIP program. While still teaching, Gloria Jean Williams saw a need to help children whose parents were in prison and created this non-profit. The SKIP program helps stop the cycle of incarceration through education, training, mentoring for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. The program helps with academics, social skills, behavior modification, self-esteem and job skills. Volunteer mentors work with the SKIP youth and their caregivers to establish a supportive "circle" of positive relationships around every child. This program is vitally important given that more than 2.7 million children have incarcerated parent(s).

For the past five years, 750 families have been involved in the program. For the families that stayed with the program, no student dropped out of school or was imprisoned. Four students graduated high school in May 2017, and many more will further their education and skills training or enter the military.

Individual Category

Kay Poeth of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (Snyder County) won second place for the Books Alive project. Spreading the love of books and promoting literacy has been a lifelong mission of Kay, a retired reading specialist. The purpose of Books Alive is to spread the love of books throughout the community.

For this program, Kay delivers storytelling programs at local preschools, elementary schools, family nights, bookstores, local libraries, community events and for homeschooling groups. She uses costumes to bring the books alive and becomes the character with all of their mannerisms as she interacts with children. It is an opportunity to serve the community through entertaining programs for children and their families. Kay's intention also is to share ideas and storytelling techniques with adults.

Local Category

The Squaw Butte Retired Educators and Brenda Hansen won the group category. This local retired educators chapter conducts a warm clothing drive for schools each year. Located in a rural district with a high poverty rate, many children who arrive at school on winter days without warm clothing or have wet socks after recess. Each fall, the chapter solicit donations of new coats, hats, gloves, and socks from members. School nurses then distribute the clothing to kids in need. One retired teacher, Brenda Hansen, knits at least 50 pairs of mittens a year for the program. Squaw Butte Retired Educators have run this project for seven years, and last year they donated 20 bags of clothing to four local schools.  

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