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December 21, 2006

National Program Empowers Older Adults and Improves Children’s Academic Performance

Dec. 21, 2006

Media Contact: Michelle Wade
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Cell – 860.834.0128

United Way and the Agency on Aging Launch Experience Corps

United Way of Greater New Haven and the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut are partnering to implement Experience Corps, a national Civic Ventures initiative that trains older adults (55+) to work with elementary school children to improve their reading skills. A pilot of the program will launch in January 2007 in two Hamden elementary schools, Spring Glen and Helen Street. Volunteers will mentor the children at the schools between 5-15 hours per week, will receive ongoing training in literacy tutoring skills and will organize a community event designed to promote literacy.

“This program touches so many different people in so many different ways,” says Portia Bonner, Assistant Superintendent of Hamden Public Schools. “The schools will gain a new resource in the volunteer mentors. The children will not only receive extra help in their reading and writing skills but they will also gain a new support system through the volunteers. The volunteers will have the opportunity to network with one another while sharing their time, experience and knowledge with the children and will serve as powerful role-models who will start a dialogue around literacy challenges in our community.”

Experience Corps has its beginnings in a 1988 concept paper by John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and founder of Common Cause, a nonpartisan citizens’ lobbying group. Gardner’s idea was to create a new institution that would mobilize time, talent and experience of older Americans to revitalize their communities. Almost 19 years later Experience Corps is an active program in communities across the country. In January Hamden will be the 20th city to host Experience Corps. United Way and the Agency on Aging secured funding for the launch of the program from Americorps through the Connecticut Commission on Community Service. The Americorps funding will allow for stipends to be awarded to Experience Corps tutors who serve least 10 hours per week.

The number of Americans age 55 and older will nearly double between now and 2030, from 60 million to 108 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As this generation reaches retirement age they represent a significant community resource as they will be the healthiest, longest lived, best educated, most affluent generation in history. United Way and the Agency on Aging hope to tap into this resource through the local launch of Experience Corps. “The program gives older adults the opportunity to connect with peers, share their expertise with children and be empowered through meaningful work in the community,” said Neysa Stallmann Guerino, Executive Director at the Agency on Aging. “Additionally, the program will improve children’s reading and writing skills and provide them with caring mentors that they can connect with on a regular basis.”

“Experience Corps directly addresses one of our region’s most critical challenges: education disparity,” says Jack Healy, United Way President and CEO. “Research has shown that if a student is not reading on grade level by the end of third grade, it is unlikely that he or she will “catch-up” in future years of schooling. United Way is committed to providing opportunities for citizens of all ages to be healthy, active and successful which is why we are so excited about the launch of this program in greater New Haven.” Experience Corps volunteers will help ensure that students are reading on grade level by working one-on-one and in small groups with children in kindergarten through grade three.

Experience Corps is currently looking for volunteers age 55 and above who are interested in tutoring children to improve their literacy skills. No prior tutoring experience is required and all interested participants are invited to an informational session and screening with Sheila Greenstein, Experience Corps Program Manager. To find out more information please call Greenstein at 203-752-3059 x 2900 or email sgreenstein@agencyonaging-scc.org.

About United Way:

United Way mobilizes the caring power of our community to create measurable, sustainable change and to improve lives. To do this we: help identify our region's greatest needs and best opportunities for change; raise dollars and invest those dollars for results; connect people to their caring through volunteer opportunities.

More information about United Way can be found at http://www.uwgnh.org/.

About the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut:
The Agency on Aging works to provide a continuum of opportunities, care and support services that allow older Americans to remain in their homes and communities, avoid unwanted and unneeded institutionalization, and to age in place with dignity, respect and maximum independence. The Agency on Aging hosts additional volunteer programs including the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a program that coordinates senior volunteers and the Senior Benefits Connection, a program in which senior volunteers conduct financial benefits and services eligibility screenings for other seniors.

More information about the Agency on Aging can be found at http://www.agencyonaging-scc.org/.


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