Joseph Voytek

Youngstown State University
Department of Gerontology

Spring 2013

“Through the research and planning I found not only that I am capable of doing more than I thought I was capable of and that my best talent was being able to communicate effectively with everyone that was a part of developing this pilot program.”

I was one of the first interns to be involved in this new internship program. I really didn’t begin this internship with a defined role for the program. I worked with a representative from ODA named Tiffany Dixon. Her and my professor Dr. Van Dussen served as my site supervisors for the project in the Fall 2012 semester. We worked jointly with the Area Agency on Aging 11 who governs Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana Counties. Our contact for AAA11 was Chief Operating Officer, Tony Cario. Tony eventually became my site supervisor for the Spring 2013 semester. I am still on the project maintaining the contacts between schools, volunteer organizations, and our project group through the summer. The other organization involved with the project was NEO HealthForce, which is part of the Mahoning County One Stop Ohio. The contact from that organization was NEO HealthForce Coordinator, Ronald Shadd.

The primary goal of this project was to work collaboratively with our group members to establish afterschool or during school tutoring and mentoring programs in our local school systems with our retired older adult population serving the roles as tutors/mentors to young students. Not only was it our primary goal to involve our large population of older adults but we wanted these programs to be sustainable and to hopefully grow into a vast network of successful older adult tutoring programs. We aimed to specifically focus on the Ohio Department of Education’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee. This program identifies students behind in reading skills from kindergarten through third grade. Schools are required to hold back those students who test below standard reading levels at the end of third grade.

My responsibilities within the group were mostly as a mediator of meetings and contacts for the project. I have helped set up meetings with local contacts to help establish community partnerships with local organizations and volunteer sources. I also did extensive research on other schools using an intervention program that has been proven successful in numerous schools across the state called Project MORE. Project MORE is a low cost and easily sustainable, 1:1 reading intervention program that has been supported by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Aging. It was our hope that we could use this program as a base for the reading intervention pilot programs.

Our group has met via conference calls and personal meetings to outline ideas and structure a plan to start pilot programs in local schools. The primary goal was to have a pilot program started in at least one local school district by the beginning of 2013. Unfortunately we were unable to do so, but we have made several contacts with Youngstown City Schools and Struthers school district. Struthers Elementary School is supporting our efforts to start a pilot program in their school by Fall of 2013. I helped to establish a Project MORE training session for the interested schools districts to attend so that we can begin planning for the implementation of these tutoring programs. We have also developed a relationship with our local YMCA. This branch has a large number of active older adults who have expressed interest in programs such as these. We hope plan to train volunteers this summer and prepare them for tutoring in the fall.

This internship has really opened my eyes to what I am capable of. Not only did I help develop the initial stages of a program that has the chance to impact the community in many ways, but I did this with no experience or idea of what it takes to develop a program of this caliber. By no means did I accomplish this on my own. I was surrounded by a great supporting cast of individuals from diverse backgrounds that really helped to shape and mold my ideas. This was the great opportunity that I had been waiting for all of college. Without this opportunity, I would have never met or worked with many of the people and agencies that I did.

In a sense, this internship project is a reflection of myself. When I started this internship I really had no direction or idea of what it was that I really I truly wanted to do. As I helped develop and plan this program I was also developing and planning my future self. The more communication I had with my group and outside sources the more I was able to develop my thoughts and goals into practical ideas. I really began to see a future for myself as I began to see I real future for this program. With the guidance and advice from Dr. Van Dussen and Tony Cario, I have developed a love for organizing projects like this and would love to oversee or help develop more programs. Through the research and planning I found not only that I am capable of doing more than I thought I was capable of and that my best talent was being able to communicate effectively with everyone that was a part of developing this pilot program. I enjoyed every second I spent on this project and I look forward to seeing this develop into a successful community program.