Wisdom and Experience of Older Ohioans an Asset to Ohio Schools
Why the Ohio Department of Education makes aging its business
June 3, 2016
By Dr. Lonny J. Rivera
Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction
Ohio Department of Education
Tapping the knowledge and experience of older Americans to benefit younger generations is not a new concept. Yet it has taken new form in some Ohio schools. Ohio's Community Connectors program calls on adult volunteers to serve as mentors to students at risk of dropping out of school.
From business, civic and nonprofit backgrounds, the mentors help individual students identify their natural strengths and talents. They also help them develop jobs skills and plot pathways to careers. Some mentors are retired, older Ohioans.
Take Allen Brokaw, for example. Last year, Allen got involved with the Building Bridges to Careers program offered through the Marietta Community Foundation. The former pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry executive started out working with an individual student. Soon he was helping seventh- and eighth-graders develop workplace skills.
In a recent session, he challenged his students to exercise their critical thinking, communication and teamwork skills - all in demand with today's employers. Allen split the group into work teams that raced to build the biggest castle out of marshmallows and dry spaghetti. The session was both challenging and effective.
Allen says career mentoring and guidance is important, so children understand some of their career options and how to reach them. He likes job shadowing programs. He also observes that teachers can have difficulty with helping students explore careers, because they haven't done it themselves. He has even taken teachers on field trips and job-site visits to help them better help their students.
"Career-minded learning is so important for these kids," he told us recently. "They need to know how to focus early on exploring careers so they can choose better courses in school, whether they're going to college or want to enter jobs after high school.
Who is better qualified to help them than older Ohioans like Allen, who have completed long and successful careers and still have so much to share? Ohio's schools are lucky to have men and women like them.
Learn more about Community Connectors.
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