Older adult volunteers are at the heart of Bridges Together. These volunteers benefit in a variety of ways. Seniors who participate in the program are quick to say:
- They really enjoy their time with the children.
- They are amazed at how eager the children are to learn and to form friendships.
- They are impressed with how smart the students are, how many opportunities they have and the caliber of their teachers.
- When they see the students throughout the community, at the supermarket or library, the students often run up to the seniors with big smiles and are so happy to reconnect with these “old friends.”
Depending on their time, interest and experience with the program, seniors are able to fill three roles:
For every six students, it is recommended that the program has two senior volunteers. These eight participants will work together as a group throughout the program. For an after-school program, there might be 12 students and four senior volunteers. In a classroom, there might be 24 students and eight senior volunteers. The volunteers share their experience and facilitate the group discussions and projects. They are not teachers, per se.
In larger programs, there is often a “senior liaison”, a person who coordinates the volunteers in one classroom. The senior liaison is a link between the teacher and the volunteers. The liaison also shifts volunteers around as needed, based on absences.
An educator leads the Bridges Together session. In some towns, the educator is a retired older adult.