Cross-Generational Tutoring Program Benefits Retirees and High School Students
Asbury~Solomons Island retirement community recently launched its tutoring program for the 2010 school year which matches seniors with public high school students for cross-generational academic assistance and encouragement.
Part of Asbury~Solomons’ wellness program, the tutoring project at Calvert High School has benefited retirees, teens and teachers alike. As mentoring relationships have blossomed, the Asbury~Solomons Island volunteers often do more than help with homework or college applications.
Joyce Thayer, 78, has volunteered since last year to critique high school seniors’ college entrance essays. Last year, she grew particularly close to Cherise (name changed to protect privacy), who was struggling with lack of support at home that affected her academics. Joyce, along with many members of the surrounding community, played key roles in helping her to succeed in school and get into college.
“She didn’t have any way to get to a college interview so I went with her and helped arrange her transportation. It was the first time she’d left Calvert County. She was afraid to go over the Governor [Thomas] Johnson Bridge! It was really fun,” said Mrs. Thayer, a Long Island native and seven-year resident at Asbury~Solomons Island. “She’s a child who has fought for everything she has. To see her succeed and go on to college has been a really great thing for everyone who knows her.”
Mrs. Thayer said she relates to Cherise’s “fight,” as she put herself through college in the 1950s, with no financial support from her family, who felt girls did not need a higher education. Today, Mrs. Thayer keeps in touch with Cherise and is proud to see she is excelling in her freshman year at Stevenson University.
“Here at Asbury~Solomons Island, we recognize that wellness is multi-faceted. It includes not just physical fitness but mental and spiritual ‘exercise,’ as well,” said Dennis Poremski, director of wellness at Asbury~Solomons Island, who created the tutoring program following conversations with his wife, a Calvert County school teacher. “Given our residents’ lifetime of experiences, the program opens possibilities for these older people to share a wealth of knowledge and caring with today’s youth.”
Calvert High School teachers and administrators alike are delighted with the presence of Asbury~Solomons Island volunteers at the high school as additional adult role models and helpers. “We always look for opportunities to partner with community groups in ways that support the academic success of our students,” said Susan Johnson, principal of Calvert High School. “It was exciting to have someone come to us and say, ‘We are willing to help you.’”
Master Chief Frederick Benson, 76, who had a 23-year career in the U.S. Navy, is a mentor to the high school’s roughly 100 cadets in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). During lunch every Tuesday, he makes himself available in the ROTC classroom.
“I’m not going to push myself on them,” he said. “But some want to visit and talk about the military and even more personal things. One student just wanted to talk about his uncle passing away. In recognition of what his time means to the ROTC students, Master Chief Benson attended the ROTC’s annual “Change of Command” ceremony last spring, where, to his delight, he was ushered to the front of the VIP line by one of the students. “I have so many blessings that it gives me joy to give back to the community,” he said.