When Katherine Rice first met him, Sal Anile was a second-grader who needed a little extra help with reading. Seven years later, Rice, a retired teacher who volunteers her time to help students, still meets every week with Anile, who is now at Louisa County Middle School.
The two met through Friends in Schools Helping (FISH), a program of Jefferson Area Board for Aging designed to connect older citizens with young people. Volunteers are typically matched with individual students to work on class assignments or homework.
They can also serve as mentors to children who might need more individual attention than teachers can provide. That’s a role Rice has been happy to fill in her relationship with Sal. At first, she worked with Anile in class. Then, at the end of second grade, Anile asked Rice if she would meet him for lunch once a week.
“He’d tell me what was going on in his life and about his schoolmates,” Rice said. “I assumed when he graduated from elementary school that would be it. But he asked me, ‘Do you think you could still meet me for lunch in middle school?’”
Anile, now 13, enjoys the 40 minutes or so he spends with Rice every week. He remembers, when he first worked with her, how Rice helped him with English idioms and sounding out words. His parents are immigrants from Italy, and English was not the primary language spoken at home.
“I fought through some challenges,” he said. “After she’d explain things to me, I had a better sense of what to do. She’s a nice person, a nice friend and really fun.”
Rice is one of about a dozen older citizens who have volunteered through FISH to help students in Louisa County Public Schools since 2012. Carleigh Showalter, JABA’s volunteer coordinator, said it has been tough to find people in Louisa to volunteer.
She said the typical child paired with a FISH volunteer is neither a low academic achiever nor someone perceived as especially gifted.
This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s Feb. 7, 2019 issue.