AARP Foundation Experience Corps

AARP Foundation Experience Corps’s goal is to provide literacy intervention services by connecting students who are struggling to read with consistent tutoring by trained tutors who are retired community leaders.

Pre-pandemic, many students were struggling at Edward B. Cole, Sr. Academy, a charter elementary school in Santa Ana, California, serving a community of predominately non-English speaking, low-income Latino families. One out of four students were proficient in reading. Principal Nicholas Sessions began searching for a reading intervention program. Then the pandemic hit.

For elementary students across the U.S., remote learning during the pandemic was challenging. For EBC Academy students, it meant that many were not utilizing English at home, creating a further reading gap.

The school didn’t need to look very far for the perfect solution. Santa Ana seniors trained as reading tutors through AARP Foundation Experience Corps stepped in. Beginning in 2020, with funding through the Parentis Foundation, the tutors conducted 1:1 Zoom reading sessions for 30 minutes twice a week, during and after school.  

Students in grades 2-4 enjoyed consistent reading time with the same senior tutor, which had improved their fluency, accuracy, and comprehension skills. The sessions provided another benefit: a sense of normalcy and accountability by another adult, something that was particularly crucial for children during the pandemic. The pairs read and discussed a text together following a structured session that focused on building fluency, fostered a love of learning and inspired reading confidence.  

The recorded sessions, which have remained virtual in the Orange County program, have resulted in atypical reading gains across the board. The biggest impact, though, are the boundless possibilities for each student from another adult who knows, loves, and believes in them.  

“This program is amazing beyond the academics. It’s the human-to-human aspect that’s so critical to empowering kids.”

Nicholas Sessions, Principal, EBC Academy

AARP Foundation Experience Corps:

  • Community-based volunteer program for people over 50 to serve as tutors to help students become better readers
  • Extensive training in a structured, evidence-based model, peer networks, and ongoing evaluation for tutors
  • Focused on schools and children in underserved communities
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