With CPDC and AARP Partnership, Learning Starts at Home for D.C. Youth and Seniors
At the nexus of affordable housing, education and volunteerism, a multi-dimensional approach to affordable housing and community development is creating intergenerational learning experiences for D.C. area youth and seniors.
September 9, 2016
With autumn upon us, schools across the nation are back in session and children are shifting gear from summer break to academics.
But in CPDC’s Southeast Washington, D.C. Arbor View community, learning never took a summer pause thanks to an innovative new partnership with AARP, the nation’s largest membership organization for older adults.
Through the AARP Foundation Experience Corps, an award-winning literacy program utilizing trained volunteers age 50 and over to mentor students, local volunteers tutored youth at Arbor View’s summer camp in reading and comprehension skills four days weekly for five weeks.
The goal: to help children grades kindergarten through third grade struggling to read to improve both their reading and reading comprehension skills.
Summer learning enrichment programs such as the one at Arbor View offer youth critical help bridging achievement gaps to equip them to excel in school.
It’s help many families might not receive elsewhere, and because the programs take place right where they live, families are more likely to take advantage.
Affordable housing developers like CPDC are increasingly being recognized as well-positioned to take on such community development due to their ability to connect local non-profit organizations—already doing work in areas such as educational enrichment, health services and job training—with residents in need.
On the education front, despite increases in recent years, statistics show that just 64 percent of D.C. high school students graduate from D.C. Public Schools—still well below the national average of 81 percent.
High-quality early childhood education has been shown to have a positive effect on long-term achievement, especially for children from lower socioeconomic statuses.*And AARP’s Experience Corps is proven to result in significant reading gains for students.
A rigorous study of more than 800 first-, second- and third grade students across three cities found that students who worked with Experience Corps tutors for a single school year experienced more than 60 percent greater gains in critical literacy skills when compared to similar students who were not served by Experience Corps.
“Many children in D.C.’s Wards 7 and 8 are reading far below grade level and comprehension,” said Sandy Morgan, a community activist and 8-year AARP member who volunteered this summer at Arbor View. “The Arbor View pilot program was a wonderful experience. This is my way of giving back to the community.”
Morgan has spent more than a decade working with children in D.C., first becoming involved in education as a volunteer. She founded a public charter school 13 years ago and today works as a site coordinator at Miner Elementary School.
James Bernard Miles, also served as a summer mentor at Arbor View. A lifelong D.C. resident who began his career as a public school teacher before moving on to work in law, this is his fourth year volunteering with AARP.
“We want reading to become automatic. It is crucial to operating in the real world,” Miles said. “This camp was a pilot program, however, I suspect it will become permanent.”
That prediction is correct.
This year’s pilot summer camp at Arbor View was so successful that AARP and CPDC are continuing the partnership and will soon kick-off a similar after-school program this fall.
Deborah Stiller, Director for the D.C. metropolitan area branch of AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps, believes partnerships like the camp at Arbor View reap intergenerational benefits for both children and their adult tutors.
AARP Experience Corps volunteers come from all walks of life from retired attorneys to nurses, and go through ongoing training and monthly in-service training.
“Our literacy intervention program brings in older adults to mentor young people between Pre-Kindergarten age to third grade who may be reading below grade level and are in need of instruction,” Stiller said. “We are all about academic improvement for the children. It’s about intergenerational connectedness, dispelling negative stereotypes on both ends and preparing the next generation of children who need additional help with self-esteem and resources. Older adults have both the time, experience and wisdom to help. You don’t need to be a retired educator to do this work. All you need is a positive attitude and the desire to help.”
CPDC’s Community Impact Strategies Manager at Arbor View Cora Clark works with families at Arbor View year around and says the pairing of youth with older adult mentors has resulted in noticeable improvements for many children.
“Most children were assessed at the beginning of the camp–and most have made strides in recognition of letters and letter sounds,” Clark said.
Energetic seven-year-old resident Cherie Diggs–who never missed a day of camp– was among those who made academic improvements; but she also enjoyed other aspects of the camp, like going to the pool and arts and crafts with Ms. Clark and volunteers.
“I started learning to write in cursive!” she exclaims when asked about new skills she learned during summer break. “I also learned that if you respect people you will be respected! Every day I’m here I get so excited because of the people.”