Seniors and students make the perfect study buddy pairs

The city of Scottsdale has partnered with Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) and Scottsdale Parent Council to launch an Intergenerational Literacy and Leadership pilot program to help at-risk children who could benefit from having a positive adult role model and tutor. 

 “If we catch kids while they’re young and help build their self-confidence, as well as their learning skills, it’s amazing what can happen,” said Barbara Nordlund, a volunteer with the Intergenerational Tutoring program who taught high school for six years and worked at the Arizona State Department of Education for 17 years before retiring. 

The program’s 15 senior volunteers completed a rigorous interview process, as well as two days of training with an SUSD district trainer. 

“This is a win-win for the children and seniors. The children get an advocate and the seniors, who are highly educated mentors, will get to give back and make a difference in a child’s life,” said Margaret Serna, Executive Director of Title I SUSD and former principal of 21 years at Tavan Elementary School.

The students range from first to 5th grade and were nominated by their teachers and principal for the program. They were paired with a senior volunteer to meet after school at Yavapai Elementary School once a week for an hour. 

“It’s a wonderful program for the seniors and children because we both need each other,” said Marcia Hauflaire, a former educator who taught grades 6-12. “These kids need a little extra time and we have all the time in the world.” 

Hauflaire explained when she first read about the opportunity in a Scottsdale e-newsletter she knew she needed to apply. “It struck my heart immediately. It sounded like something that would be so rewarding for me and for the child I would get to work with. Sometimes children need a little more individual attention that they can’t really get at home or at school and to be able to give them that extra hour… who knows what that will do for them. A little extra encouragement never hurts.” 

The program started mid-January and will run through April, concluding with a “wrap up” party. Coordinators will then conduct an evaluation and determine how the program will look like at the start of the next school year. Ultimately, the goal is to offer it at all Scottsdale elementary schools. 


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