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Nurse Brings Love of Learning to Her Volunteering as a Reading Tutor

How Carol Dolan employs the art of listening as an AARP Foundation Experience Corps tutor.


spinner image Carol Dolan Experience Corps Volunteer

Carol Dolan has volunteered with AARP Foundation Experience Corps in Orange County, California, since the program began five years ago — but she’s been tutoring kids since she was a kid herself.

Her 4-year-old sister Janey one day shocked their mother by revealing that she already knew how to read. How? Big sister Carol had taught her while they were “playing school.”

Carol’s current involvement with tutoring comes after two stints as a nurse — a profession she chose because she discovered, as a young person caring for her siblings and an ailing grandmother, that it suited her personality.

But Carol went further than completing the minimum requirements to become a registered nurse; she also obtained a Lifelong Teaching Certificate, certification as a childbirth educator and in hospice and palliative care — and lectured at the University of California, San Francisco, while getting a master’s degree. She took on the more intensive training because, she says, her parents raised her to believe that “my job was to be educated, not just trained.” It’s an ethos she’s carried into her volunteer work with Experience Corps.

As Carol sees it, there’s a parallel between nursing and tutoring: both involve working closely with people and being a good listener. She remembers one of her very first patients because, she says, “part of taking care of that person was talking with him about art.” Similarly, she considers it an important part of the learning process to teach the children she tutors how to listen to a story.

Her dedication to Experience Corps comes from her conviction that the years from 0 to 5 are the most important for a child’s development. Two decades as a stay-at-home mom only reinforced that belief; she calls that time her “most important career” and likes to quote former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” 

As a parent committed to her children’s education, Carol was active in their Modesto, California, school district, where she played a central role in establishing book fairs and story hours. In fact, one of the read-a-thons she created still raises $65,000 a year for the host school. Later in life, when she started looking for a volunteer opportunity, Experience Corps was a natural fit.

Her obvious enthusiasm for tutoring through Experience Corps was recently acknowledged with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Parentis Foundation, which administers Experience Corps in Orange County. But Carol insists that she is the primary beneficiary of her volunteering.

“It gives me another group of people to be around,” she says. “And the rewards I receive from the children are greater than what I do.”

Learn more about AARP Foundation Experience Corps and how to become a volunteer.

Read more stories about how our programs have helped people find hope, and about the volunteers who give so much of themselves to help others. 

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Help Kids Become Great Readers

Helping someone learn to read is an amazing feeling. Experience Corps makes it easy to start giving back, with training and ongoing support when you’re in the classroom.