SF MAYOR: Expand Experience Corps

Gavin Newsom. Photo by Paul Sakuma/Associated Press.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom became the latest political leader to call for the expansion of Experience Corps, the successful tutoring and mentoring program engaging adults over 55, as a way to improve public schools.

"If there is one place where San Francisco must continue to lead by example, it is in reforming our public schools," Newsom said in his second inaugural address. "Fundamentally, we are creating a new culture of lifetime learning."

The mayor called out the city's efforts in early childhood education, science education, community service and college admissions and then said:

"Because improving our public schools will take the talent and energy of this entire city, I believe we should harness the knowledge and experience of the coming influx of baby boom retirees, to mentor San Francisco’s next generation. That’s why I will expand successful programs, such as Experience Corps, to encourage retired San Franciscans to mentor and tutor our public school students."

Newsom joins Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, the former mayor of Baltimore, who has called for the statewide expansion of Experience Corps as part of a broader "boomer initiative."

And Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, singled out Experience Corps in his December speech calling for a major expansion of national service. In its policy paper, Obama's campaign proposed, "Experience Corps is a good model that should be expanded beyond reading and and mentoring to other challenges on which national service will be focused."

Experience Corps Bay Area was established by the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center in 1998. The program offers adults 55 and older the opportunity to develop caring relationships with elementary and middle school students in San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin County during and after school. Members tutor one-on-one or in small groups, provide classroom assistance, and help out in after school programs. Additionally, they support youth in enrichment activities, creative arts, or reading, and often develop programs for children based on their own unique backgrounds and experiences.