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One Volunteer’s Journey
By By D’Ann Morris, MPA, Dawn Purnell & Dr. Teresa Seeman, Contributing Writers
Published August 17, 2017

Linda Rick (top, center), a retired office manager and longtime community advocate, was one of the first volunteers to join the Generation Xchange program when it began at Angeles Mesa Elementary School, in April 2015. She currently volunteers at 74th Street Elementary School. Ms. Ricks has done extensive volunteer work within her local community and contributed greatly to the Generation Xchange program through her tireless volunteer efforts.

The Los Angeles Generation Xchange (GenX) program is an intergenerational, academic-community partnership between the UCLA Department of Medicine and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) BD1/ Dr. McKenna. The program seeks to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for elementary aged children in Los Angeles while simultaneously offering ‘health promotion’ for the growing population of older adults in the local community. GenX engages them in a program offering social, cognitive and physical activity – all known predictors of health and well-being.

The GenX program prioritizes involvement with chronically under-resourced and underperforming schools in Los Angeles. Our goal is to provide additional resources in the form of Gen X team members, who can work with students to increase the success rates in meeting standards for reading and math in grades K-3rd grade. They seek to reduce current inequities in academic success by implementing the GenX program in schools with lower rates of grade-level proficiency. Within those schools, the program targets children who need more individual attention to gain the necessary reading and math skills to support future academic success.

For the older adults, GenX offers a chance to engage in a meaningful and important role as a classroom volunteer that also provides them with social, psychological, cognitive, and physical engagement. They recruit GenX adult participants from the communities around our schools. Many of the adults are also chronically underserved and experience disproportionate health risks. The GenX program offers health promotion for the adults, addressing the elevated health risks frequently found in the communities from which they are recruited. The program’s health promotion results from the physical activity, social and cognitive engagement associated with participation in the program. There is also a psychological benefit of participating in a program designed to help younger generations succeed in school, a critical element to the health and wellness for volunteers. This provides participants with a sense of pride and the satisfaction of fulfilling an important role, and continuing to make important contributions to their community.

GenX provides volunteers (aged 50 and older) with 32 hours of training and then places them in kindergarten thru third grade classrooms, where they provide a minimum of 10 hours per week in academic and social support. Volunteers work with students on academic skill development in reading proficiency and math, and social-emotional issues that result in an inability to focus during class sessions or behaviors that disrupt class activities.

Results to date have been extraordinarily positive. In our end-of-year interviews, GenX team members have been extremely positive about their experiences and have reported health benefits such as weight loss and greater physical stamina and mobility (i.e., increased ability to climb stairs). Principals and teachers at schools where the program has been implemented have also reported that children have benefited both academically and behaviorally (better reading, fewer office referrals, decreased absentee and tardiness rates) because of GenX’s presence in the classrooms.

Generation Xchange had a chance to speak with Linda Rick, a retired office manager and longtime community advocate. She was one of the first volunteers to join the Generation Xchange program when it began at Angeles Mesa Elementary School, in April 2015. She currently volunteers at 74th Street Elementary School. Ms. Ricks has done extensive volunteer work within her local community and contributed greatly to the Generation Xchange program through her tireless volunteer efforts.

Q: What drove you to volunteer for the LA Generation Xchange Project?

Linda Ricks: I have always loved reading to younger children and began doing so at the age of 11. Over the years, I remained very active in a reading program at my local library. When the program ended I channeled my energy into other community improvement efforts, including the development of the Hyde Park Miriam Matthews Library. When I learned about the Generation Xchange program and its effort to help the young children in our local schools, I couldn’t wait to sign up.

Q: How has the program benefited you since you began volunteering?

Linda Ricks: I really enjoy seeing the young people’s faces each morning. Children today deal with so much more than I did when I was child. They are exposed to too much, too soon and have a lot on their shoulders. I get so much satisfaction knowing that I’m doing my part to ensure that they get the education they need to be successful. One of these children may be my healthcare provider one day or may be responsible for filling my prescription in the pharmacy. I’m helping to make sure they have what they need to do a good job.

For additional information or become a part of our volunteer team, contact D’Ann Morris @ dmmorris@mednet.ucla.edu or call 310-825-8253.

Categories: Education | Family
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