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Seniors offer helping hand through District 54 program

Jo Dergo helped in the inaugural year of Seniors Supporting School program in 2009 at District 54.
Jo Dergo helped in the inaugural year of Seniors Supporting School program in 2009 at District 54.

MORRIS – Connie Schuler of Morris read about the Seniors Supporting School program several years ago and thought it sounded like something she’d be interested in.

Since then, she has helped first-grade students at White Oak with their reading.

“I listen to them read and help with their sounds,” Schuler said. “I’ve even helped make s’mores in the classroom.”

Through the Seniors Supporting School program, district residents who are age 60 and older work at the schools for minimum wage and can earn up to the amount they pay in property taxes annually to District 54.

“We learned about the program during a conference and implemented it in our district the following year,” Superintendent Teri Shaw said. “It works well. Any time you get the chance to add another helping hand to the classroom, everyone benefits having an extra ear, extra hands and an extra heart in class.”

Shaw said a bond is created between the seniors and the students. It’s this bond that Schuler said provides her the greatest reward.

“When they recognize you outside of the school and they stop to tell you ‘Hi,’ it’s really cool. They also give hugs, which I enjoy,” Schuler said.

Shaw said the schools try to find the best fit for the seniors, learning about what interests them and putting them in places where they can make the biggest difference. Some have been crossing guards. One helped coach basketball. Others assist in classrooms.

“I have no background in teaching. In fact, my background is in accounting,” Schuler said. “It’s the perfect job for me because they are very flexible.”

Schuler leaves Morris for the winter, so she works at the beginning of the school year until she leaves. She returns to work when she comes home.

She likes choosing her own hours. She works two days a week from 8 a.m. to noon most days.

While Schuler doesn’t mind the paycheck, she said she’d work even if she wasn’t paid.

“I love helping. It’s so rewarding,” she said. “They are very appreciative. The work is easy, and it doesn’t take much.”


What: District 54 is hosting an informational breakfast on the Seniors Supporting Schools Program

When: 10 a.m. Sept. 5

Where: White Oak School in the District 54 board room (door #2 at 54 White Oak Drive in Morris)


Do you know someone interested in participating in the District’s Seniors Supporting Schools program? This program is open to area residents age 60 and older, and allows senior residents to work within District 54 schools for minimum wage. The maximum amount a senior may earn is capped at the level of property taxes paid to District #54.

Volunteers will be placed according to requests and availability.

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