Back to school cool for Children First workers

By The Active Age | May 30, 2023

Two sisters looking for something to do in retirement found it in the form of 20 middle schoolers.

Nan Putnam, a former social worker, and her big sister, Dianne McCarthy, a former florist, worked as group leaders for pupils chosen to be student Ambassadors at St. Patrick and All Saints Catholic schools. The Ambassadors are a program of the Children First nonprofit, while Putnam and McCarthy are employees of the AmeriCorps program coordinated by  the Wichita State University Community Engagement Institute. 

“We just hit the ground running,” McCarthy said. “It’s been a learning experience for both of us.”

Meeting with the kids one day a week, the sisters helped them organize canned food drives and bake sale fundraisers, brought in speakers from the community to talk about their careers, had them volunteer at the Kansas Food Bank one morning and took them on tours of WSU and Newman University.

McCarthy said the career speakers were eye-opening for the students, who had “funny” ideas about the salaries they’d make in various careers.

“Some of them thought they’d get paid half a million dollars, and some thought they’d get paid $2,000.”

When one group of adults visited St. Patrick, the Ambassadors handed out flowers from the school’s garden and told them about that program.

“Throughout the school, they’re known as Ambassadors,” McCarthy said. “They’ve taken the lead on a lot of things in the school.”

Putnam and McCarthy say they worked about 17 to 20 hours a week. They are paid a small monthly stipend and a bonus at the end of their year of service. They’re planning to continue for at least one more school year. The local AmeriCorps program currently employs 19 people in it who are 60 or older.

“We would encourage people, if they’re looking for something to do, to go to AmeriCorps,” Nan said.