PHILADELPHIA — After 22 years helping kids get to school as a crossing guard, baby boomer Julia Tally is nearing retirement but still wants to put her free time to good use.
So when class begins, Tally goes to work helping students who've fallen behind, like Shanay Larry, who struggles with reading.
“I've been working with children all my life, so it might look hard, but it's not, I'm having fun,” Tally says.
But this isn't your typical volunteer work. Tally, along with the other women in these Philadelphia classrooms, volunteers for Experience Corps, a program with just 2,000 members in 14 cities. They are volunteers working with teachers to make sure third graders can read.
“If they don't, you know, the dropout rate is extremely high,” says John Gomperts, chief executive of Experience Corps.
He says the program also is attracting a new breed of retiring professionals who want volunteer work that's more specialized.
“This is not for fun, this is not to keep people active. This is to get a job done,” Gomperts explains.
Volunteers must pass a rigorous screening process, complete 20 hours of training and produce results.
Test scores show student reading levels are steadily improving.
How do the students know they're getting better?
“’Cause I'm reading more books and reading better,” says student Shawn Clement.
Volunteers benefit too. They report their health improves, they're more active, use fewer medications and have a sense of accomplishment.
“I get a fulfillment when I go home knowing that I have touched their lives in a positive way,” Tally says.
The program is expanding, adding four more cities in the fall, and with millions of baby boomers nearing retirement, Experience Corps expects to have a huge pool of new recruits.
They are volunteers eager to share a lifetime of experience and wisdom when there's still important work to do.
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