The Auen Foundation recently awarded a grant to the Reading Inspires Student Excellence (RISE) Intergenerational Program at Sunny Sands Elementary School. The RISE Intergenerational Program serves about 80 at-risk and English Language Learner students five days a week, three hours a day. Mentors and students read together and test reading comprehension on computer software.
The program, which has been going strong for more than 23 years, includes about 50 senior volunteers whose life experiences and expertise add to the dynamic interpersonal communication that happens between the two very different generations. The Auen Foundation grant helped expand the use of technology in the program by adding new laptop computers.
“The inclusion of technology in the program provides students with the knowledge to succeed in the workplace and in life. Students gain confidence when their reading and technology skills improve,” said Karen Galindo, the program’s administrator. “It also helps keep our senior volunteers in-touch with innovations in technology and education, empowering them as community mentors.”
In addition to training and coordinating the community volunteers who pair-up with struggling readers, Galindo, a certified teacher, plus a part-time paraprofessional work with English Language Learners and students who are testing low in reading to improve their fluency and comprehension skills.
“The students are willing to give up their recesses to work with mentors,” said Ann Carter, who has volunteered at Sunny Sands Elementary for five years. “You can see the satisfaction on the students’ faces when their reading improves. The program is priceless.”
“This is the most rewarding program you could possibly imagine for students and mentors,” said Frank Kulp, a 91-year-old volunteer who has been with the program for 21 years.
With the Auen Foundation’s dedication to enhancing the overall quality of life of the aging population and supporting charitable programs aimed at meeting the social needs of mature adults, this program was a natural fit.
“When seniors have an outlet to share their knowledge and skills, and they see that they can still have an impact on society, it is rewarding and inspiring,” said Catharine Reed, Program Director for the Auen Foundation.
With the Auen Foundation’s commitment of $15,000, Regional Access Project (RAP) Foundation matched it to fulfill Sunny Sands’ full request for 20 new MacBook Pros plus a mobile storage cart. Both grants were awarded to the Pinnacle Fund, which recently changed its name to The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District. The funds were then promptly disbursed to purchase the new equipment.
The RISE Intergenerational Program is always looking for volunteers of all ages to help students 1st-5th grade improve their reading. For more information about getting involved, call Sunny Sands Elementary at (760) 770‑8635.