Last updated: August 25. 2013 6:57AM - 348 Views

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LEIPSIC — A pilot program pairing senior citizen volunteers with students to improve childhood literacy has been introduced in Ohio.

The program will link volunteers with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Project MORE (Mentoring in Ohio Reading Excellence). Leaders with the Ohio Department of Aging will also work with the pilot program.

Officials gathered Tuesday afternoon at Leipsic Elementary School to make the announcement about the pilot program.

Leipsic Superintendent Greg Williamson said Leipsic Schools witnessed how this type of mentoring program can be successful. Leipsic is in its 14th year with a mentoring program that included matching senior citizens, high school students and college students with elementary students who are at risk in reading.

“This past fall, 80 percent of our third graders passed the testing in reading on the first test,” Williamson said. “We see true value of what reading mentorship can do and have the data to prove it.”

Marcus Moles, chief of the Ohio Department of Aging representing the RSVP program, said the pilot will begin in three areas, including the Mansfield, Toledo and Athens County.

Moles said there are 23 RSVP regions in Ohio with 13,000 volunteers.

"This is a national program,” he explained.

RSVP is America’s largest volunteer network for people age 55 and older. The initiative is supported by a provision in Gov. John Kasich’s 2013-14 Executive Budget, which encouraged RSVP programs to use state and federal funding to support priorities established by the Ohio Department of Aging and the Corporation for National and Community Service, including school readiness, K-12 success, healthy futures and aging in place.

Project MORE is an affordable and effective volunteer reading mentoring project for students with disabilities or at risk for reading failure, officials sale.

Moles said the PSA3 Area Agency on Agency in this region currently does not have a RSVP program. He announced RSVP programs in surrounding counties have agreed to a partnership to provide the RSVP program in Putnam, Van Wert and Hancock counties.

Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, said this partnership is part of relationship-building between the elderly and students.

“It will ensure that the two generations can connect,” she said. “We believe through this relationship the elderly will grow as well.”

In a press release, the Ohio Department of Education announced this pilot program linking senior volunteers with students will improve childhood literacy, support Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, engage elders to support community needs and teach kids the secrets of living long, healthy lives.

At the conclusion of the announcement, several Leipsic mentors gave their experiences with this type of mentoring program.

“It’s important,” said Rev. Tim Eding. “It let’s the students know that we as a community care about them.”

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