Philip White knows your answer will be “yes,” which at that point you’ll have taken his bait and can expect to be reeled in to become an OASIS intergenerational tutor.
“Sometimes people don’t think they’re qualified,” he said, “but if they can read, they are.”
Philip is on the St. Louis OASIS “Team 100” that recruits adults 50 plus to help children in grades K-4 improve their reading and language skills. The intergenerational tutoring program has been operating since 1989, but about 4-5 years ago, a need arose for more tutors in the north St. Louis area, according to Maureen Filter-Nolan, OASIS’ liaison with St. Louis Public Schools. “There were some ladies in the program who were helping, but felt they didn’t know the area well enough,” she said.
At that time, Martha Christmas, a retired educator who worked in north St. Louis for many years worked diligently to help find additional adults to help. And she kept finding them, eventually becoming a full-time recruiter for the program. Sadly, Martha has passed away, but two of her tutors continue to recruit volunteers. Each of them has a different approach in how they do so.
Philip says that one of the challenges in recruiting for tutoring is that people think they have to have worked in education previously. Indeed, many OASIS tutors are retired teachers, but many are not – and don’t have to be. “You have to find their niche, get in where you fit in, and you’ll get them hooked,” he says. Philip takes advantage of all of his connections, from his church to his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers, to gain tutors for the program. He even recruits while out shopping. “If they’re there in the middle of the day, they’re available to tutor during the day,” he laughed.
Martha Hurley, a retired teacher, draws volunteers from her church, from the local AARP and of course, from retired teacher groups. “Usually that first year after retiring, they’re not receptive,” she said, “but after that I get them! They love kids and love to see when that lightbulb over their head goes on.”
In 2011, the Philip and Martha shared their experience and knowledge with coordinators of another OASIS program, CATCH Healthy Habits, who also recruit volunteers as part of their job. The pair told the CATCH Healthy Habits coordinators that they recruit wherever they go ... always having a sign-up form with them. (editor’s note: at that point, both Philip and Martha pulled forms from their pockets!)
Martha and Philip are among thousands of adults who have given so unselfishly of their time to help students read. Now they bring in others who can also have that amazing experience.