It's no coincidence that Academy Village residents have been volunteering in the Vail School District for more than eight years.

Volunteerism was a key part of what was envisioned when Henry Koffler, then-president of the University of Arizona, conceptualized the retirement community off Old Spanish Trail on Tucson's east side.

Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker sums up their contribution: "We truly believe our motto, that 'Education is a community effort.' As such, we greatly value Academy Village volunteers willing to be part of that community effort. They bring skill sets, experience and perspectives that greatly enrich the education our community provides for its students."

Many Vail programs have been enhanced by the volunteers.

For example, more than 50 Academy Village residents and 130 students have participated in Bookshare, a reading program involving teams of 10-14 volunteers and eighth-graders in an annual six-week project.

Launched by Kristin Murray, a language arts teacher then at Desert Sky Middle School, now at Rincon Vista Middle School, the project connects volunteers and students who read the same book.

For several weeks, student and volunteer pass a journal about the book back and forth. Journal entries answer questions by the teacher as well as issues raised by the volunteers and students. Teams meet face-to-face three times and then celebrate the completion of their books with a lunch at Academy Village.

"There's a much larger effect of Bookshare than the original goal of strengthening students' ability to critique the stories they read," Murray said.

"It has also brought a change in perceptions between the generations, and lots of smiles. The younger generation will continue to benefit by gaining a newfound respect for elderly community members, and the Vail community has benefited, and will continue to do so, through building these cross-generational relationships."

Vail students involved in science fairs and in the district-wide Vail Pride Day have been supported for several years by the interest and professional advice of Academy Village residents.

The volunteers also help judge senior exit projects at the Vail high schools.

How to Help

Interested in volunteering in the Vail School District? Learn more at www.vail.k12.az.us/human-resources/files/2010/07/ Volunteer.pdf or contact the volunteer coordinator at individual schools or call Sandra Ortiz in the district's human resources department at 879-2064.

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