As part of its mission to promote healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and service, St. Louis-based Oasis launched its Intergenerational Tutoring program here in 1989. Since that time, thousands of older adults have served as Oasis volunteer tutors nationwide, impacting the lives of nearly half a million children.
The 2019-2020 school year will mark the program’s 30th anniversary – and Oasis is currently signing up new volunteers to join the St. Louis area seniors currently serving as tutors, mentors and friends to kids in kindergarten through third grade. Opportunities are available in 28 school districts across Missouri, including St. Louis and St. Charles Counties, St. Louis City and Jefferson County, as well as St. Clair County, Illinois.
Tutors focus on students’ early literacy skills, using an educator-designed approach that emphasizes improved reading, speaking, listening and writing. No previous teaching experience is required; Oasis provides training and other materials volunteers need to be successful. One-on-one meetings take place once a week during the school day, generally lasting about an hour.
Benefits to the students who participate are many, according to National Intergenerational Tutoring Director Mary Click. “They enjoy reading more, they enjoy school more, they become more confident, and they benefit in other academic areas as well,” Click said.
Perhaps just as significant, though, are the benefits to the tutors themselves.
“Our tutors love what they do … the consistent message that we hear again and again is that they genuinely get more out of it than the children do,” said Oasis Institute Director of Communications Anne Heinrich. In fact, 100% of Oasis tutors responding to a survey conducted by the nonprofit said they find significantly more purpose in life as a result of their service, she added.
Dean Barnes, a Manchester resident who has served as an intergenerational tutor for two years in the Parkway and Rockwood school districts, definitely agrees with that statement.
“I worked in the construction equipment rental business for 40 years, and traveled nonstop. So when I retired, I had this huge void I needed to fill in my life,” Barnes explained.
“I get a whole lot out of being a tutor … it does a whole lot of good all around. I just feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s a very enjoyable time, especially when you can develop a relationship with a child,” he said.
Barnes has worked with 14 students over the past two years, six during the first year and eight the second, visiting schools two days per week. He started in the Parkway district, tutoring students in three elementary schools – but when one of them moved to Rockwood, “I filled out the forms and followed the young man over there,” he said.
Like the vast majority of Oasis tutors, he plans to continue his service during the upcoming school year.
“It’s a wonderful program; I can’t speak highly enough about it.”
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Oasis intergenerational tutors will receive 10-12 hours of training in late August and September, with a goal of matching tutors with students by the first week in October. For more information about becoming an Oasis tutor, visit Oasisnet.org/tutoring or call (314) 995-9506.