Volunteer Program a Win-Win for Schools, Kids, Seniors
Seniors provide valuable volunteer services in Waukesha schools, according to Waukesha School Board.
Kudos were shared at a recent Waukesha School Board meeting for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Waukesha County, Inc., with board members appreciative of the work the volunteers do in area schools and program coordinators sharing how much the program means for the seniors involved.
Kathy Gale, executive director of Interfaith, Inc., which coordinates the program, said about 400 elementary students are helped by the program in five Waukesha schools: Blair, Banting, Hadfield, Hawthorne and Lowell.
The volunteers work with students at the teacher’s direction, helping with math or reading needs, and sharing support for the learning process.
In addition to helping with elementary students, the volunteers help at Waukesha West High School, providing first-hand information about history to students in U.S. history classes, and at Horning Middle School tutoring students with reading needs.
RSVP also provides an intergenerational Folk Art Fair, serving more than 12,000 students since its inception in 1994. Last year, more than 600 students visited the fair at Summit View Elementary School, learning about our country’s cultural and ethnic heritage from the volunteers.
The program serves a valuable need in the community and fosters intergenerational relationships between students and the senior volunteers, Gale said.
Long-time RSVP volunteer Gladys Manke, who helps a student at Hawthorne, said she was rewarded with the smiles and hugs from the children for her work, making the program well-worth the time invested.
But the children also benefited.
“I did see improvement in reading skills and dictionary skills and felt very rewarded by that,” Manke said.
School board members thanked the volunteers for their work in the program, citing the links they provide to history and the support they give to teachers.
“It helps them appreciate who has come before them. It provides subtle learning experiences for all the students you come in contact with,” School Board President Daniel Warren said.
School Board Member Karen Rajnicek said that she saw the program in action at West and that she was impressed by reports that the students listened to their volunteers.
“When that (senior) tells them to do something, they do it,” Rajnicek said.
But the program is good for the seniors, too, Gale said
“It gives the seniors reason to get up and get dressed in the morning," Gale said. "It gives them a reason to know that there’s a purpose to their life."