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NRTA's 19th Annual With Our Youth Awards

Spotlighting the remarkable nationwide community service of retired educators

We are honored to announce the winners of the 2019 NRTA With Our Youth! Award.   

"After spending a career nurturing and educating our nation's children, retired teachers remain a powerful, steady and respected presence in our communities," said Al Campos, NRTA director. "Retirement has not stopped these educators from enhancing the lives of youth and their communities. Our congratulations to the winners and our deepest thanks to all retired educators who continue to serve their communities."  

The following volunteers are winners of the 2019 NRTA With Our Youth! award: 

Individual Category

Marianne Cullers helping teach two young school students

Winner Marianne Cullers

Marianne Cullers from the Manhattan (Kansas) Retired Educators Association is the first prize winner, receiving a $250.00 grant for the HAND TO HAND Program.

In 1995, Marianne resigned from teaching high school math due to chronic health problems. During this time, Marianne was asked to tutor secondary students in math. She agreed and turned her focus to students who needed individual help but could not afford tutoring. To address this issue, in 1996 Marianne started the HAND TO HAND program. As program director, she provides academic and emotional support for students who are at risk for at least one factor: low income, single-parent, minority, immigrant and ESL home, and learning disabilities. The program now serves more than 120 elementary and secondary students each year, with some 100 volunteers from the local youth corps and university students serving as tutors and assistants. Marianne's family also volunteers with the program. Her husband is the photographer, her daughters are helpers, and her grandsons are tutors. The program has thrived for 24 years and Marianne says, "Volunteering saved me!"

Amy Worley, Elementary School nurse with Phyllis Eastridge R, Patrick County, VA retired teacher

Amy Worley, Elementary School nurse (left) with WOY winner Phyllis Eastridge (right)

Phyllis Eastridge of the Patrick County (Virginia) Retired Teachers Association has been instrumental for the past three years in providing head lice medication to families of children in the Patrick County School System who have or are at risk for head lice. Knowing the real need for this service for this highly contagious epidemic in a rural county, Phyllis collected more than $1000 in donations from churches, organizations, businesses, medical clinics, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies and individuals to purchase medicated shampoo. More than 80 kits were distributed to six elementary schools and one high school. The school nurses distribute the kits at no charge to parents of children with head lice, while providing directions for use of the medication and the cleaning process. 

Since Phyllis started the program, there have been no reported cases of lice infestation to the local clinic or social services. This project is ongoing to serve an important need in the schools, raise awareness in the community, provide a healthy start, and let children know that someone cares.  

Group Category

The Wisconsin Retired Educators Association (Lincoln County) is the winner for the Happy Kids Backpack Program, a special project of the Tomahawk Salvation Army in conjunction with the Tomahawk School District. Cathy Meyer, a retired school principal and a member of the Lincoln County Retired Educators Association, spearheaded the project in 2009 to provide weekend meals for students facing food insecurity at home because hunger has a devastating effect on student achievement and behavior. Board members from the Salvation Army worked with the school district to develop guidelines for eligibility and distribution. Initially, eighteen families were identified. Volunteers meet once a week to fill backpacks with meals and distribute them to families in need. Volunteers also check expiration dates on donated food and serve as ambassadors, generating attention for the program in the community. Both students and families appreciate the backpacks and look forward to them each week. 

Several of the volunteers in the program are retired educators who are members of the Wisconsin Retired Educators Association-Lincoln County Unit: Dottie Andersen, Mary Cottrell, Terry Derleth, Margaret Harry and Mary Lou Seipp.

Please join us in applauding all of the 2019 winners for their commitment to serving our nation's youth after a lifetime of work!  

The NRTA With Our Youth! Program was established by NRTA 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 outstanding work of state and local REAs, as well as individual volunteers. More information is available here.

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