Helping America's Most Vulnerable

School for Refugee Children Provides Volunteers in Denver an Environment to Both Teach and Learn​

Dr. Percy H. Lyle is a man of many distinct talents. He has worked as a producer in television, acted in movies, served as a radio personality and performed in live theater shows across the country. He earned his PhD in Human Communications from the University of Denver and has taught Theater and Communications at several community colleges and universities in Colorado.

More recently, Percy added a new title to his long list of career and life accomplishments: volunteering in Denver as a Volunteers of America Senior Corps Foster Grandparent at Cherry Creek's Place Bridge Academy.

Place Bridge, like Percy, is very extraordinary. With more than 65 different languages spoken and 40 different countries represented, it is unlike most schools. Its proximity to Aurora, one of the most diverse communities in Colorado, has made the Academy a melting pot of cultures, nationalities and races -- something the staff and students are very proud of. It’s been referred to as "Denver’s refugee school," and, as the Academy’s website states, it provides a unique “environment of learning and cultural celebration.”

This morning, Percy got up at sunrise, made his way to Place Bridge and, at the teacher’s request, was preparing to teach a special lesson to his class on Black History Month.

Percy has been volunteering in Denver as a Foster Grandparent at Place Bridge for nearly four years, teaching second and third graders. Before coming to the Academy, he didn’t realize how diverse the student body was; however, he enjoys this aspect, and shares that it has expanded his own knowledge of world cultures and histories.

As a Foster Grandparent, Percy greets the children in the morning, helps them get settled, and then works diligently with each student, tutoring them for improved math and literacy skills. Many of the students (and their families) are still learning English as their second or third language, so one-on-one time with a focus on reading comprehension is absolutely vital. It’s intricate work, but according to Percy, the impact you see in their language skills make every minute worth the time and effort.

When asked how multiple languages affect his own ability to teach, Percy affirms that it does not. “They just ask a lot of questions, but that’s okay. That’s how you learn.”

Being a Foster Grandparent keeps Percy pleasantly busy. At 81 years old, he knows how important it is to remain physically and mentally active. He shares that many of his friends live a much more stagnant life: getting up in the morning, reading the paper, watching television and going to bed. “That would kill me,” he states.

As he walks down the hallway, he is greeted affectionately, students waving hello and hugging his legs. It is their unique honesty and smiling faces that “keep him sane” and offer the largest personal reward.

“Each time I drive out of here, I see the students outside playing and laughing. How can you be mad about anything when you see that every day?” he asks. “I plan to be a Grandparent for many years to come – until the good lord takes me home.”

For more information about becoming a Foster Grandparent, call 303-297-0408 or see www.voacolorado.org/FGP.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA

Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need live healthy, safe and productive lives. Since 1896, our ministry of service has supported and empowered America's most vulnerable groups, including the frail elderly, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, homeless individuals, women in need, and veterans and their families. For more information about Volunteers of America, visit www.voacolorado.org.

ABOUT SENIOR CORPS (FOSTER GRANDPARENT PROGRAM)

Senior Corps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for volunteering, service, and civic engagement. CNCS engages millions of Americans in citizen service through its AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs and leads the nation’s volunteer and service efforts. For more information, visit www.nationalservice.gov.