Experience Corps had received national recognition and numerous awards before entering into partnership with AARP. It had established active programs in 19 cities, involving 2,000 senior volunteers in tutoring 20,000 children each year. It also had commissioned research demonstrating its efficacy in improving student outcomes, as well as studies showing that the program yields measurable quality-of-life benefits for the adult volunteers. Based on these strengths, Experience Corps was eager to exponentially scale its program nationally. Yet it faced the challenge of securing the resources, building the organizational capacity and developing the on-the-ground community relationships needed to grow rapidly to scale.
AARP, well known today for its national policy voice, was built on the values of volunteer service and community engagement. With a growing population of age 50-plus adults interested in making an impact in their communities and sharing their talents with coming generations, AARP wanted to offer its members meaningful and high-quality volunteer opportunities–just the kind that Experience Corps represented. Seeking a multigenerational program to bring under its brand banner, AARP was attracted by the proven impact of the Experience Corps model. It was confident that it could help contribute the reach, resources, relationships, and reputation needed to rapidly scale the tutoring program, enabling it to enhance members’ experience and prepare a generation with a critical skill necessary for future success.
Lester Strong, Vice President and CEO of AARP Experience Corps (and CEO of Experience Corps prior to the affiliation) recalls:
“We knew we had something that worked. So the question, and the real mandate for me coming in, was how to get this ‘literacy vaccine’ to as many children as possible who needed it. We realized we needed a larger infrastructure, lift capacity, to really distribute our program with as much adherence and devotion to its efficacy as possible.”
What began as informal conversations among like-minded individuals at Experience Corps and AARP soon became a catalyst for articulating a shared goal of audacious proportion: to expand the program to serve one million children nationwide.