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.