Senior Adults for Greater Education (S.A.G.E.) is a nonprofit organization that promotes involvement of people 55 and over in the public schools.
The organization was founded in 1999 by Beryl Katz, who recognized that the wisdom and talent of the older members of the community were being underutilized. S.A.G.E. unites youth and seniors in their quest to enrich education and leave a legacy for future generations. Senior citizens bring a diverse breadth and scope of knowledge that can offer students experiences that cannot be learned from textbooks alone. (beasage.org).
S.A.G.E. is active in Bucks and neighboring counties. Benefits are identified for everyone involved:
– Students benefit through positive relationship with a senior who may represent a “grandparent”.
– Teachers benefit through increased support in their classroom and an extra set of hands.
– School districts and communities benefit through local partnership between families, schools, business, and religious groups since senior volunteers are members of these groups.
– Senior volunteers have opportunities to share their knowledge, skills and values to the next generation and sharing the joy of learning from a student’s perspective.
Several years ago, my church bulletin noted that volunteers were needed at an elementary school in my neighborhood. I contacted S.A.G.E. and completed the application. 2022 is my seventh year as a volunteer that allows me to be present, listen to the kindergarteners, support and do what I can to assist the teacher.
One morning a week I listen to morning announcements, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, participate with the children during Morning Circle when they share what they did the previous evening, look forward to doing, and/or share their special experiences. During play time I am available to observe, offer help, tie shoe laces, be in the audience for a puppet show or place an order for food from the play kitchen. I sometime help with math and Kid Writing
In May during National Nurses Week the teacher invites me to participate during story time. I read a book that shares what nurses do in the various types of nursing and also to let them know that mommies and daddies can be nurses. I bring my stethoscope and sphygmomanometer and explain their use. I show them a picture of me when I wore a white uniform and cap at work. Children are eager to share their experiences when they had to visit a doctor or the school nurse, have a new brother or sister, or experience the death of a family member or pet. A few years ago, one of the students gave me a detailed drawing that included items that I mentioned during nurse week story time.
Students reinforce the importance of “being present.” The shy students need encouragement, some need a shoe lace tied, and others need a listening ear. Their imagination during play time is fun to watch. Asking what a particular item they are building represents, rather that stating what I think it is, allows the children to share their imagination and enthusiasm.
I appreciate the many benefits I experience. Sometimes a hand-drawn picture is waiting for me or thank you notes. In 2022, I was greeted with the singing of Happy Birthday Mrs. Harris, followed by each child reading their personal card to me. These are memories that will last my lifetime.
My two suggestions for readers: 1) Consider becoming a S.A.G.E. volunteer. At age 86, this opportunity to interact with children on an intergenerational basis keeps me physically and mentally healthy. 2) I encourage school districts to consider adopting a S.A.G.E. program. Contact: email@example.com or 215-357-2332 throughout the year.
Marilyn D. Harris is a S.A.G.E. volunteer and board member.