It's a very rewarding experience for me. In fact, I may be getting more out of it than the kids," said Len Wiener of the Clark County School District's School-Community Partnership Program. "I love it ... We're appreciated, and it's nice to see how much."
"I often wonder who gets the most gratification from all of this, me or the kids," said Hershel Aron of the program.
And Beverly Mason, assistant director of the program, said she couldn't be happier when hearing those kinds of responses from the classroom volunteers.
"They're part of our community outreach program. And like all of our volunteers, their involvement is invaluable," said Mason, speaking appreciatively of those who give their time to work closely with elementary school children. Wiener and Aron volunteer under an agreement with Temple Bet Knesset Bamidbar of Sun City Summerlin.
"We have many such partnerships, although, at this time, we have 15 schools that have no partnerships and certainly could use the help," Mason said. "We call it our adopt-a-school program. In some cases, they involve homeless kids ---- children who live in poverty, children who have significant social and educational needs."
Wiener, a one-time nursing home administrator from New York, and Aron, a former deputy sheriff from Los Angeles, are retirees who live in Sun City and devote two to three hours a week working with grade-school children at Adcock Elementary School, 6350 Hyde Ave.
They and several other volunteers from Temple Bet Knesset Bamidbar are dedicated to helping the youngsters they deal with ---- often one-on-one ---- in such areas as reading, spelling, math and providing snacks. That's the basic purpose of the program, which was begun 29 years ago by the school district.
But that type of assistance serves only as a starter. For example, the temple budgets $500 a year for its partnership with Adcock Elementary School. "Half of that amount is to help supplement school supplies, such as pencils, crayons, refreshments and other needs, and the other half is for school field trips," said Aron, who is the temple's coordinator for a program that was begun in September 2008.
"I might add that some members of our temple contribute well beyond the budgeted amount," he added.
As an example, "the school nurse asked me last September if we could help provide coats for some of the kids," Aron said. "There were many children who had no winter coats. Thus far, we have provided more than 40 coats, and we have another two dozen available for any other kids who need them."
Another example of extra involvement is the time on a second day each week that Wiener devotes to assisting Alan Hunt, the teacher in charge of Adcock's chess club. Fourth- and fifth-graders are encouraged to participate in chess as an extracurricular activity.
Wiener, a long-time chess enthusiast, serves as a monitor, helping to answer questions and offering positive critiques.
"Chess encourages logical thinking," he said, "and the chess club at Adcock, which consists of about 20 children, can be very proud. That's because most of these kids never played the game before, but they have taken to it so well that in 2010, the Adcock chess club won four of the five trophies awarded in the district's elementary school chess tournament."
The thrust of the school-community partnership program, however, is to work closely with those young students who need special attention.
"I have been working with one youngster for three years ---- an hour a week, right through his years in second, third and fourth grades," Wiener noted. "In this case, the close attention has been very rewarding for him."
In essence, the volunteers are there to help the child as well as the teacher.
"We provide whatever the teacher determines the need to be, whether we're working with one kid at a time, or maybe three or four kids from the same class," Wiener explained.
This year, he has been working with a third-grade class, while Aron has been involved largely with second-grade children.
"I work one-on-one, and sometimes one-on-two, helping them in math, reading and letter recognition," Aron said. "I have to tell you, these kids are just great."
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.