(Nov. 22, 2011) Every other Tuesday, 74 year-old Gisela Hollinger looks forward to 2:45 p.m. That's when she leaves her Van Allen apartment to walk down the hallway to the community room where she visits with her friends from RCS.
RCS Central School District collaborates with STARS INTERGEN INC., a not-for-profit agency, to offer intergenerational mentoring programs that enrich the lives of RCS students and the older adults who volunteer with them. The partnership draws upon the knowledge and experience of older adults to promote academic success, while fostering intergenerational contact that helps students and retirees better understand and appreciate each other.
Known as STARS (Seniors Teaching and Reaching Out to Students), volunteers go into classrooms to help students with assignments, visit with students who are bused to Van Allen Senior Apartments in Glenmont, or mentor students through a high school-to-college mentoring program.
Twice a month, senior volunteers in the Van Allen STAR HELPERS Program meet after school with students in the community room to help them with homework, play board games or cards, and create arts and crafts to donate to nursing homes and other groups in the local community. On occasion, the group goes on field trips together. The STARS volunteers and students team up on activities that enable them to spend time with each other and become friends.
Gisela stumbled upon the STARS program by accident when she saw a group of senior citizens and students together in the community room.
“I have six grandchildren, and they all live far away,” explains Gisella. “I really look forward to this program. I like just seeing their faces, and hearing their names—they fascinate me.”
Originally from Hungary, Gisela tells stories about what life was like when she was a child while making crafts with RCS seventh-grader Jenna (pictured top right). Jenna is so intrigued by Gisela that she plans to interview her for a school report.
Marilyn Kaltenborn, a retired attorney, started participating in the STARS program in the spring of 2010.
“At my age, I never thought I’d have a collection of friends in sixth through 12th grade. It keeps me from getting old and boring,” said Marilyn. “I am genuinely happy to see them, and they’re genuinely happy to see me.”
Most Tuesdays you’ll see Marilyn playing a game of Scrabble or helping a student with his homework.
Last school year, Marilyn mentored RCS senior, Cierrah Forte, to help reach her goal of becoming a nurse. Cierrah participated in the STAR HELPERS Program for five years and last spring received a special legislative merit award from New York State Senator Neil Breslin in recognition of her academic and personal achievements. Considered a role model by her RCS peers, Cierrah now attends SUNY Plattsburgh in the competitive nursing program.
“I really do think that the extra attention makes them [students] realize that they can change their circumstances with a little motivation,” adds Marilyn.
Approximately 10-12 senior adults currently volunteer with RCS students at the Van Allen after-school program and 19 STARS volunteers help out in classrooms at A.W. Becker and P.B. Coeymans Elementary Schools and the middle school. Stars Intergen is always looking for additional volunteers in classrooms or to mentor students. For further information, contact Stars Intergen Executive Director Karen Harmon at (518) 439-1505 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View photo gallery below with photos of RCS students, STARS volunteers, and the many activities they do together on Tuesday afternoons.