Bob Kincaid, co-founder of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Get Veterans Involved (GVI), has found that it’s possible to kill two birds with one stone. His nonprofit helps two groups — veterans who struggle when they return from service, and elementary school kids in need of mentors — at the same time.
How is that possible?
While veterans train for new jobs or attend college, the organization pays them to visit local elementary schools each week.
“They’ve got no mission. No purpose. The hope is to give them purpose,” Kincaid tells the Times Free Press. “If we can have these service members recognize these kids need them, we have a mission for them.”
Kincaid believes the program, which kicked off in five elementary schools this year, will help veterans feel connected to their community as they work to make a smooth transition into civilian life. Additionally, the work will help low-income kids in innumerable ways. “We mentor the kids, who then mentor the vets,” he adds.
Instead of having the vets come to the schools with a lesson to teach or a talk to give, GVI instructs them to simply help out in whatever way the classroom teachers need them to. One basic task the veterans assist with at Calvin Donaldson Elementary, for example, is helping kindergartners learn their ABCs.
Principal Cherrye Robertson says, “Right now all of my kindergartners know all of their letters, which is phenomenal. We’ve never had all the kindergartners in the whole building know all their letters at this time of year.”
With early successes, GVI is aiming to expand through funding and donations. GVI co-founder Ron White says, “The vision is for this one day to be in school districts around the country.”