Baby Boomers Help Students Get Back to the Books

By: Audrey Pernik Email
By: Audrey Pernik Email

September 5, 2007

SAT scores in the Commonwealth are slumping. Recent numbers show on average high school students score a 511 on the math and verbal portions of the test, which is slightly lower than previous years. These falling figures mirror that of a national trend.

A corps of volunteers and one of our area's most valuable resources, the booming retirement community, is combating this widespread issue.

Four years ago, Gordon Walker, the C.E.O of the Jefferson Area Board of Aging, created a program known as Friends in Schools Helping, or FISH.

"We thought, why don't we take elders with the time the skills and the interest and put them in schools that need the help," said Walker.

It recruits retired teachers, retired engineers and older men and women who have the time and wherewithal to lend a helping hand to the Albemarle County school system.

"We love to get people who are sitting at home and not sure what to do with their time, and all we are asking for is an hour a week. We seniors are living longer than ever before and we are perfectly capable of helping," said Patricia Severson, FISH coordinator.

In today's classroom students of all different academic levels sit side by side. Severson says tha while some students excel others get lost in the shuffle and it's difficult for one teacher to reach every child.

So that's where the FISH program comes in.

For one hour each week, adult tutors impart the knowledge they've gained throughout their professional life to young students who need extra attention. Volunteers are matched with a school that is nearest their home.

"We work one [student] and he tells me what his week has been like and I get an opportunity to tell him what my week has been like," said Walker, on the relationship he's nurtured with his student over the past few years.

JABA is holding an introductory training session later this month. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer call JABA at 817-5222.

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