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NIA Employs Community Service to Honor MLK Legacy

The National Institute on Aging has wrapped up another successful year of programs for its adopted school, Sinclair Lane Elementary School, located near the institute's Gerontology Research Center (GRC) in southeast Baltimore.

According to Sheila Thornton, a consulting teacher at the school, the students benefit immensely from the partnership with NIA employees. "Our students crave the attention the NIA volunteers provide and they thank the principal profusely after they have spent time with the volunteers."

Most recently, NIA participated in American Education Week last November through the "Ready, Set, Read" campaign. Thirteen NIA employees volunteered to read to students in classrooms. It proved to be enjoyable for the students and volunteers. Researcher Bruce Ziman, dressed as the Tin Man, presented a talk, "Ease on Down the Road to Research" as part of the Health Career Fair that week.

NIA helped kick off the new school year last September by donating 6 tables and 50 chairs to the school. The donated furniture has been put to good use in one of the resource rooms. And at the school's closing ceremonies in June, a student was presented with an award, donated by a GRC employee, for most improved school work.

NIA's Joanne Piezonki (l) and Carolyn Eames made labels for the teachers' mailboxes and alphabetized files in the school office. Both are longtime volunteers in their communities.

Last May, 45 students enjoyed the second annual Junior Scientists' Day at the GRC. Wearing lab coats and safety glasses, students observed computerized cell sorting, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrophotometer scanning an orange, old and young rats running through a maze to test their memories, and other interesting laboratory demonstrations. They also enjoyed watching a video produced especially for children, You Can Be a Scientist Too!

A year ago, 29 GRC employees volunteered in classrooms and the school office in response to the Martin Luther King Commission's request that all Americans set the example for honoring King and his work by getting involved in community service throughout the year.

The NIA IRP human relations committee sponsored "Observance through Service" week at the school last January. Each NIA volunteer spent at least 2 hours at the school reading to and tutoring students, assisting teachers in the classrooms, setting up computer equipment, labeling staff mailboxes, and updating files in the school's office. NIA employees Arlene Jackson and Carolyn Eames read Curious George to first graders and helped them cut out flash cards and arrange them in the proper sequence of the story. Afterward, they made Curious George puppets out of paper plates and construction paper. "It is very rewarding for me to see the children light up because they see that people have a special interest in them," said Jackson. "I feel good that I can give a little sunshine to these kids."

NIA scientist Dr. Yolanda Mock teaches a grammar lesson to second graders at Sinclair Lane Elementary School.

In March 1997, NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes authorized supervisors to allow official duty time for employees in all levels, careers and localities to participate in the Adopt-a-School program. According to Jackson, "Observance through Service" week served as a mentoring program kickoff at the school.

Last year, NIA employees also donated used stamps from around the world, local grocery store cash register receipts that were redeemed for computer equipment, office supplies, and used magazines that students used for cut-and-paste projects. Also, NIA employees have accompanied students on field trips to the zoo and science center.

"The past year's partnership between Sinclair Lane Elementary School students and faculty and NIA employees has been most rewarding," said Jackson of NIA's EEO Office, who is coordinator of the Adopt-a-School program. "All NIA employees have gifts to contribute to this worthy program. I encourage other NIH institutes to implement an Adopt-a-School program if they haven't already done so."

To learn more about organizing an Adopt-a-School program, contact Jackson at (410) 558-8121.

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