For Donna Scales, becoming an OASIS intergenerational tutor provided her with an opportunity to help at-risk children find their way in the world.
Donna had raised her own children in Portland, Oregon, and in all that time, said she had never heard about gangs in her town. “But when it came time that our ‘nest’ was emptying, it seemed like every local newscast featured gang violence,” she said. “I now had the time to help in other areas. But what does a senior-aged female do to fight gang activity?”
After hearing something on the radio about a program where seniors tutor children in the public schools, Donna wrote down the contact number. “I knew I'd found the answer to a desire that had been growing within me,” she said. The OASIS tutoring program, Donna said, was the answer. “I would focus on one at-risk child and try to instill hope, identity, confidence, and academic skills.”
When Donna was to be assigned a student, she asked for a kindergartner who might need tutoring for several years. “I wanted to stay with the child and not only teach, but mentor,” she said. “I was able to customize my teaching to the needs of each student, thus focusing on topics that could help guide their future.”
She tutored one boy for five years. “He was a mix of two minority races and his father was in prison. I learned about his Indian heritage and checked out books that featured his tribe. It gave him a new found pride,” Donna said. “When he was in second grade I asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer? ‘What difference does it make; I won't get to do it anyway.’ My heart was crushed.” So Donna asked him questions … do you come to school clean and well dressed? Do you get to school on time? As he answered yes, Donna told him, “those are plusses for finding a job.” They went on to talk more about jobs and skills that might fit his abilities.
“Each time I left my tutoring session,” Donna said, “I drove home knowing I'd changed the world, in my small way, in my little corner of the world.
Learn more about the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring program.