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Last September, the members of the Student Award Committee decided to explore the “New Horizons for Seniors” grant opportunities and found it was a great match for our desire to explore using portfolios with students sponsored by RTAM members. When we reviewed their Program Objectives and National Priorities, we found an alignment which was conducive to our Project goals.  We selected to apply for a $5,000 grant as we believed that this would give us the start-up funding to get our project off the ground.

Below is our response to the application question #25, explaining how we will meet their Program Objectives and National Priorities.  It will be obvious how this was the ideal grant for us to seek for funds.

“In terms of the Program Objectives, RTAM is a non-profit organization of 10,159 retired teachers and all aspects of this project, as with all RTAM initiatives, will be run on a volunteer basis by seniors.  Our Student Success Portfolio project has been planned, and will be implemented, totally by senior women volunteers.  While the project development and delivery has been developed by the Student Awards Committee, the success of the project will be promoted and delivered by volunteer seniors across the province.

The social participation of seniors will be fostered across the province, including Northern Manitoba, through various public relation channels.  We have 18 local Chapters and 3 out-of-province Chapters (Alberta and British Columbia) who will be offered opportunities to regularly communicate with their members about this project.  We have a provincial quarterly magazine called “Keeping in Touch” (KIT) which is designed, written and published by seniors and mailed to all members.  As well, we host a website for our members to access and learn more about this project.  These will all be used to generate interest and participation in our project.

Because our membership is comprised totally of former teachers, mentoring a family member and teaching them about the importance of this portfolio will be a natural fit for many.  They may find themselves asking their student questions in casual conversations throughout the school year such as “Have you put any new artifacts into your portfolio?”  “What have you been doing?” “What can you put in your portfolio to serve as a reminder at graduation time when you are applying for scholarships of this activity/passion/leadership opportunity in which you have been involved?”  “Did you know you can consider placing … into your portfolio?” offering interesting suggestions.  The seniors will serve a mentoring role in the project.

With social participation as a program objective, our project offers our RTAM members social participation with their high school grandchildren and/or nieces or nephews.  With COVID implications, our project involves seniors using various means of communication (letters, cards, phone calls, Facetime, email, Skype and other forms of visual online communication) within their home setting when it is not possible or safe to hold face-to-face visits.  Being involved in these forms of communications offers the seniors a reason to communicate with their family sponsor above and beyond only signing off on their application forms.

In terms of National Priorities, healthy aging will be supported through the various senior connections with their youth applicants.  Through the communication and engagement with the family members, we believe this project will address some members’ feelings of loneliness and social isolation.  It will boost their mental health by offering a purpose in their lives to enhance their sponsored applicants’ success in collecting and reflecting upon their portfolio artifacts.  Student will have someone they can trust and work with as a team to create their applications with success.

Thus, our RTAM Student Success Portfolios project supports both the New Horizons Program Objectives and National Priorities.”

RTAM was awarded the $5,000 grant in early March, 2021.  Since then, we have used our funds to purchase the portfolios, to cover the mailing of the portfolios out to students, for the design of our logo and for the French translation of student materials.  Part of our funding has been allocated for a research project which we will hopefully be undertaking with some University of Manitoba Masters students in their fall Qualitative Research Course.  The study will help us to determine what has been working successfully, what are some challenges faced by our RTAM members and their student relatives and what we can do to improve the project in the upcoming years.  More will be shared once we have found our students and work together collaboratively to determine the design of the research project.