By Oren Yaniv, Daily News Staff Writer
New York Daily News
September 6th, 2005
The Experience Corps is coming to Queens.
An award-winning national volunteer program that utilizes retirees as literacy instructors for struggling pupils will be expanding to St. Albans and vicinity next month.
Experience Corps has been run by the Community Service Society since 1996. After successful ventures in the South Bronx, Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem, it will soon set up shop in Queens, as well.
"The volunteers in our program are 55 and older," said Kemba Tamar, Experience Corps project director. "But they are the most vibrant and involved group of people I have ever met."
The grandpas and grandmas offer one-on-one tutoring for first- and second-graders who are far below grade level in reading, and also assist them during classes. They work at the schools four days a week, four hours per day.
"The children love it," Tamar said. "Seniors really have patience for the children, an intangible sort of understanding."
So far, Public School 136 in St. Albans and PS 156 in Springfield Gardens have signed up for the program. A pilot program at PS 156 started at the end of the last school year.
Barbara Prentice, 66, of Springfield Gardens, volunteered in May after retiring from a supervisor position at Blue Cross/Blue Shield in 2003.
Teachers are said to love the program because they are assured that struggling students won't lag further behind. And the kids appreciate the help, too.
"They show a lot of love and the volunteers show love back to them," Prentice said. "They listen good because they feel grandma is speaking."
The Experience Corps program is operating in 13 U.S. cities and won the President's Service Award in 2000.
Magaly Reid, project coordinator for Queens, said the program has recruited just over a dozen volunteers, but is looking to reach at least 40. Retirees interested in signing up can call Reid at (212) 614-5385. No experience is necessary and training is provided.
"As life-long inhabitants of the areas in which they serve, they play a direct role in ensuring that children from their community have a chance to succeed in life," Tamar said of the volunteers.