SeniorCorps Program Helps Former Teacher Find Ways to Keep Teaching

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What happens to those elementary students who do not need special education, but need additional help in the classroom? For many schools, there is not enough staff available to reach these students on a timely basis. RSVP volunteer, Darlene S. has decided to take it upon herself to help fill this void.

As a retired teacher herself, Darlene volunteers in the classroom at West Elementary for an hour every week to work with those students. Her time is varied between listening to students practice their reading skills and helping them with worksheets in class. She then stays to have lunch with her “Lunch Buddy.”

The Lunch Buddy program pairs an RSVP volunteer with a single student who may come from a disadvantaged household, or who may be in a situation where the student has little or no interaction with adults outside of a teacher during the day. Volunteers and their Lunch Buddies have lunch together once a week. This extra attention to students who would otherwise “fall through the cracks” helps these students improve skills, bond with a caring adult, and find the help they need.

Darlene also works with Black Hills State University to supervise student teachers as they prepare to enter the classroom for the first time. And, last spring, she took part in the first ever multi-generational project at the University which paired college journalism students with senior volunteers. The students were in the Basic News Writing or Interviewing Class and had projects that required them to interview and write a story about someone they didn’t previously know. Darlene met with two students several times to discuss her music teaching experience, her current volunteer activities, and her love for working with children.

Darlene feels education is so important to anyone, regardless of age. She has been a model volunteer since starting with RSVP several years ago. Darlene says, “I enjoy spending time with the elementary children. This year, I was visiting another school and I saw some of the children I had spent time with last year. They recognized me and one came and gave me a hug. One asked me to say hello to his teacher. I think I [am] more rewarded (from this assignment) than the children.”

To serve more children, additional RSVP volunteers are scheduled to take part in school tutoring and the Lunch Buddy program this fall. To learn more about RSVP and other SeniorCorps programs, click here. To search for similar opportunities this summer, log on to

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