Seniors Head Back to School - for Kids' Sake
In Colorado Springs School District 11, the GrandFriends program is changing the way people think about school "seniors."
The program, which pairs senior citizen volunteers with schools in District 11, first began when a local restaurant owner noticed how many retirees who came into his restaurant didn't seem to have much else to do during the day. He contacted the school district, where his children were students, to suggest the idea of connecting seniors with schools in need of helping hands. With that, the GrandFriends program was born.
"Our GrandFriends volunteers do so many things," says Dawn Enger, project coordinator for the GrandFriends program. "Anything from shelving books in the library, to reading with and to the students. They teach sight words, they provide general classroom assistance, they work individually with students in math work, art, prep work - really anything the teacher might need help with."
Now in its 22nd year, the GrandFriends program has more than 220 active volunteers at more than 40 schools across Colorado Springs School District 11. And even more volunteers are expected to join after the program's upcoming training session in September.
"So many volunteers talk about how the program gives them a sense of fulfillment in general, and that they just love working with students and helping in the community," says LouAnn Dekleva, supervisor of volunteer services and partnerships for Colorado Springs School District 11.
To help keep seniors in the loop about the newest developments, the school system has launched the Senior Sounding Board program. The new group will meet four times this school year, Colorado Springs School District 11 officials have announced.
At Senior Sounding Board, a function of the superintendent's office, representatives of the senior and retiree community will speak face-to-face with District 11 officials about current issues within the school district, and educators will bring them up to speed on new instructional programs.
"Often, people will pick up on news or trends receiving attention nationwide and they they want to know, is this happening in District 11?" says LouAnn Dekleva, supervisor of volunteer services and partnerships for Colorado Springs School District 11. "We'll fill them in."
This year's Senior Sounding Board meetings will be held on Oct. 10, Dec. 12, Feb. 13 and April 17. The October meeting will take place at Coronado High School, where seniors will have a chance to learn about District 11's Good Food Project.
"We want the seniors to understand what's happening with the Good Food Project," says Dekleva, "And we thought that the best way to do that would be to actually take them to a prep kitchen, show them how the food is prepared and explain how the program is different from past ones."