Life brings with it a lot of lessons. The more life, the more lessons.
Now, a new program in the Aledo school district allows community members age 55 and older an opportunity to share those experiences, along with volunteering in a variety of ways to help within the district. It also allows the participants free admission to all Aledo ISD events.
And there is no charge to join the SilverCats.
“Many of you have a lot to offer our students,” Aledo Superintendent Dr. Susan Bohn told a group of newcomers at a recent meeting to explain the program. “You are Bearcats also. Our real focus is learning, and what they (students) do when they leave us. The best can always be better.
“If our football team wins a state championship, there is always something they could have done better in that game. We want every person in the district to be focused and working on that mindset together.”
Bohn said the idea behind the program is taking what is great about Aledo and growing it. It’s a program she has implemented in prior districts in which she’s worked.
“Seniors have a lot to offer. We’ve lived. We’ve experienced,” said Jim Taylor, 70. “Anything we can do to support these kids, we should do it.”
Also, one of the best parts of the program, Bohn said, is that participants don’t have to have family members enrolled in the district to join.
“People don’t think about us as a way to volunteer if they don’t have children in our schools, but it’s all available to them,” Bohn said. “We feel that life experience is very important to share with our students. It’s one more relationship to enrich a child’s life.
“Here today we have a room full of people who have done some great things in their life. For example, we don’t have a teacher on staff who’s ever built a flight simulator.”
Aledo High School senior Jake Ford said SilverCats is the epitome of a community working together.
“In Aledo, everybody being for each other, that’s the best part of this community,” he said.
Fellow senior Emily Hensley said mentors made a big difference in her life.
“I have had some adults who pushed me and challenged me, and that’s been so helpful,” she said.
“Research shows the better relationship kids have with adults is a good measure of how successful they’ll be as adults,” said Scott Kessel, director of student services and safety in the district. “Expect to feel good about yourself, how you contribute to this student, to the community as a whole.”
Deputy Superintendent Lynn McKinney added, “Your presence is invaluable. We have a million things to do and ways you can help.”
Among the ways members of the SilverCats can help, along with mentoring, McKinney said, include reading to children, volunteering to work in the library, helping students learn English as a second language, and helping teachers in their classroom.
And, from the appearance of the meeting, there are plenty of SilverCats ready to help.
In fact, the program is offering folks like David Stubbs, 58, a chance to stay involved despite retiring recently from the district. He was an assistant principal.
“I’m excited. I retired from the district last year, but this provides a way for someone like me to get reconnected,” he said.
Gay Larson, 77, wants to bring her master gardening skills to help students.
“Through the years I’ve planted a lot of trees around the schools. I see this as an opportunity for the students to learn about horticulture,” she said.
“I think it’s our duty to give back at this age,” said Barbara Chambers, 77. “We receive so much from teachers and administrators.”
“What a wonderful idea. We’ve been in Aledo 35 years. Both of our boys graduated from here, but since they graduated we became disconnected,” said Gary Wheat, age 65. “Now we can get involved again. Plus, the free passes are great.”