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Senior citizen volunteers make a difference to students

Jeremy W. Schneider

It’s amazing what a few hours a week spent helping a child can accomplish.

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

It’s amazing what a few hours a week spent helping a child can accomplish.

Senior citizens volunteering at Rock Hill elementary schools with Seniors Teaching And Reaching Students, or STARS, have a reason to celebrate. Rock Hill was one of five schools in the state selected by the Ohio Department of Education to appear in a new booklet, "Reading: What’s Successful."

In a three-year time period, the school district was able to raise the reading proficiency scores by almost 32 percent. Rock Hill Elementary No. 4 in Hanging Rock showed a test score increase of 70 percent.

The dramatic increase drew the attention of the state’s education department who came to the school and interviewed teachers, administrators and volunteers, trying to learn their secret. The state officials discovered the school district has focused on professional development with teachers and the STARS volunteer program.

STARS volunteers visit the school at least once a week and read with selected students. The volunteers, who have to be age 55 or older to participate, agree to commit to at least 10 hours of volunteering a week working with students who are behind in their school-work. A total of 15 volunteers work with 61 students in the Rock Hill school district.

The volunteers go through training in reading, writing, math, phonics, mentoring and a host of other skills they need to work with the students.

The volunteers agree that the work they do is not only important to the students but important to them. "I like to see their eyes light up when they figure out something," STARS volunteer Lucy Runyon. Volunteer Cora Roach agreed, saying, "the students want the one-on-one time. They also like to give hugs and we like to hug back."

STARS volunteer Patty Kirkpatrick summarized the feelings of all the volunteers. She said, "I get satisfaction from seeing the kids learning to read, especially the ones that are struggling…it’s exciting."