I first learned about 826 Valencia as a fan of founder Dave Eggers’s novels; his dream of developing a love and aptitude for writing struck me an important effort to help kids thrive. I’m now in my second year of afterschool tutoring at Buena Vista Horace Mann school, a K-8 public school in the Mission. I like it so much that one of my personal goals is to help more people of my generation find purpose there.
In the turbulent 60s and 70s, as a college student, I became involved in the anti-Vietnam-war movement. I was drawn to the idea of working with kids and after moving to San Francisco became involved in a progressive alternative school called the Lucy Stone (aka Snoopy Gorilla) School, also in the Mission District.
In 1979, my wife, our three-year old daughter and I moved to LA., setting me on a different career path, including nearly a decade and a half at a national association in the field of aging. But that was really the end of my work with kids — other than raising my own family, and becoming a grandparent — until 2015, when I came to 826.
For the past decade, I’ve been part of Encore.org, a national nonprofit focused on creating ways for experienced adults to use their life experience to advance the greater good. I created The Purpose Prize, a program recognizing social innovators over the age of 60, and now supervise the Encore Fellowships program, which since 2009 has placed 1500 corporate retirees in part-time, paid roles in nonprofits around the country. In 2017, we’ll launch The Encore Prize, which will support innovative ideas for connecting older adults with the needs of children and youth.
In 2015, as Encore.org began preparing its Generation to Generation campaign, which will mobilize a million people over the age of 50 to help kids thrive, I realized it was time for me to begin my own encore, working with kids. As much as I love helping kids become great writers, the unofficial role of older adult mentor feels particularly important at a time in our country’s history when children of immigrants, including many of the kids at 826, face uncertainty in their lives.
It?s my hope to inspire other adults to become caring adults in the lives of young people: Everyone can use a little extra help, and in my experience, the benefits — and the pleasures — flow both ways.