STORY of S.A.G.E.
By Beryl Katz,
In 1998 as a “stay-at-home” Mom I attended school board meetings regularly to keep in touch with the issues, Having taught High School English myself before becoming a mother I wanted to find a way where I could give back to the schools that were educating my children.
At that time in our community of Newton, Bucks County, Pa. there was a clear divide between parents who saw the need for a second high school and older people no longer sending children to schools whose desire to keep taxes down prevented them from seeing the need. Coincidentally a discussion ensued about how to get more help in the classrooms to lower the ratio of students to teachers at a low cost. KABOOM! It hit me. The child of a teacher whose brother is also a teacher, I looked around the room at the impassioned “seniors” and had a thought-“why not invite them into the classroom to see how education has changed, and invite them to share their time and talents with the students?”
Together with a friend, the School Board President, we approached the Superintendent with the idea who scoffed and said it would NEVER work. However, he gave me the green light to give it a try! This is how S.A.G.E. was born.
S.A.G.E. now offers their volunteer three to four training sessions a week on topics such as Reading, Writing and Math. Just as important we offer training on developmental stages of growth, and recently one on how to recognize child abuse and steps to take to protect the student. Our volunteers are committed individuals who take their volunteer jobs just as seriously as their past professions. This is their “ENCORE” career.
- Increase in self-esteem
- Increase in knowledge, skills and learning
- Increase in understanding and appreciation of aging and older persons
- Decrease of the stereotypes of aging and older adults
- New, positive connections and meaningful relationships with older people
- Mentoring relationships will positively affect those students who need extra attention-addition of supportive, positive role models
- Increase appreciation for the legacy that seniors have created for the younger generation Increase in historical perspective
- Increase sense of connection with the community
- Help students realize that learning is a life-long process
- Show students that by giving of themselves they can make a difference in the world
- Increase support in the realization of their professional goals
- Improved quality of their program-reduction of student-adult ratios in classroom at no cost
- Increased time to teach
- Creation of the feeling of one with the community, creating a sense of everyone working toward a common goal-education for the youth of the community
- Increased respect, understanding and appreciation for the job of a teacher
- The creation of bonds between older adults and students-fostering a sense of community
- All participants will benefit as they learn from one another
- Dispelling stereotypes that seniors may have of the younger generation, and visa versa-creating a feeling of comfort between generations
- Local partnerships will form between families, schools, businesses, community and religious groups which is a proven way of raising student achievement, and creating and sustaining safe communities
- An increase in opportunities for youth and older adults to both give and receive support
- Prevention of unnatural age segregation, which increases community awareness about issues that affect both young and old
- Having a vehicle to facilitate community collaboration, pooling of resources, and encouraging cooperative problem solving
- Promoting an appreciation for rich cultural heritages, traditions and stories
- Increased satisfaction and purpose
- Enhanced self-esteem. Since an individual’s self-concept is a reflection of the views of others, the self-images of older participants are enhanced through intergenerational exchange.
- Addition of new, positive meaningful relationships with children and professionals within the community. While collaborating with students on educational projects older adults can provide a valuable service as mentors, helpers, etc. By offering their knowledge and experience the elders can make meaningful contributions.
- An understanding and acceptance of today’s youth.
- Opportunities to transfer knowledge, skills and values to the next generation.
- A reduction in the sense of isolation
- An increase in the stimulation of mental capacities
- An increase in the connections within the community
- Rekindling the joy of learning and living
- Continued involvement in the community creating alliances with those who have children in the schools and those who do not
The S.A.G.E. program: Imparts an improved sense of worth & value
- Gives seniors the ability to share knowledge and experiences
- Increases involvement and awareness from seniors in the school district
- Facilitates community collaboration and cooperative problem solving
- Promotes an appreciation for rich cultural heritages, traditions and stories
You tell us! The diversity in experience from which our volunteers come is vast – and impressive. And the ways in which they have become involved are just as varied. If you are interested in becoming a S.A.G.E. volunteer, our passionate and dedicated staff will find the perfect volunteer position for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beryl Katz, a former teacher founded S.A.G.E. in 1999 to give older adults an opportunity to share their skills, knowledge and wisdom with K-12 students. Katz started
S.A.G.E. by partnering with one Bucks County school district, Council Rock and over the past 20 years has grown the program into a non-profit organization that partners with thirty schools in Bucks County and boasts nearly one thousand senior members. Katz has gained support for S.A.G.E. from representatives of government, the public school system, the parochial school system, and the community and in the process has raised awareness of the value of older adults. Additionally, Katz has also shown S.A.G.E.’s 900+ senior members the value of contributing to the community and the public school system. Katz founded S.A.G.E. out of a profound respect for the knowledge and experience of older adults, coupled with a desire to help struggling students lost in large classrooms. Katz believed these senior “sages,” many of whom were isolated, could help students who needed more attention.
By placing hundreds of senior volunteers in schools, Katz’s S.A.G.E. has impacted the academic life of countless students and given seniors a renewed sense purpose. Katz’s program has also allowed seniors to pass on their experience to the next generation. For her outstanding work with S.A.G.E. Beryl Katz has been recognized as:
- A Woman of Worth by OWL – the Older Women’s League, 2006
- Hometown Hero by the Philadelphia 76ers, 2004-2005
- Citizen of the Month of Northampton Township, November 2002
She has received a proclamation from U.S. Senator Robert Tomlinson
In 2007 She received the designation of being a DAILY POINT OF LIGHT By George. W. Bush