Mildred Ledwell, Experience Corps tutor at Adlai Stevenson Elementary School, has spent about six hours a day, five days a week for the past eight years helping kindergarteners and other at-risk children to learn to read.
She is tireless in her efforts, beginning her school year in September when the children return from summer vacation, although the Experience Corps program tutors don't officially start until October. She has mentored more than 25 children each year, even giving up her lunch hour to help a fifth grade girl whom she tutored previously and with whom she formed a close bond. To stimulate her students' interests, she decorates the room and provides interesting materials for them to since many of the students don't have any books of their own at home. She dismisses these contributions with a smile, saying, "So much is needed and the children appreciate it."
She says that, while she is helping students learn to read, she is also getting an education. "It's something you can't believe or explain until you experience it," Mildred says, "It's such a joy to see these children go on."
A Licensed Practical Nurse at Cleveland's University Hospital until her retirement in 1997, Mildred joined RSVP as a tutor at Alfred Benesch Elementary School with the STARS program and continued until the program was absorbed by Experience Corps. She has accumulated more than 6,200 volunteer hours and received the President's Volunteer Service Award in 2004 and the David F. Leahy Award for Volunteer Excellence from RSVP in 2005.
Her youth mentoring experience hasn't been limited to RSVP and the Experience Corps, however. Mildred has been active in the youth council, Sunday school and Girl Scout programs at her church, Olivet Institutional Baptist, for many years. She also volunteered at Marymount Hospital as a surgical room hostess and a patient advocate, interviewing and making patients feel at home in the hospital setting.