By Yasmin Radbod
For Senior Voice 

Elder Mentors share their wealth of experience


April 1, 2023 | View PDF

Photo courtesy Ginger Okumoto

Elena Serame has volunteered for several years as an Elder Mentor in Kodiak schools.

In upcoming months, Senior Voice will feature Elder Mentors from around the state to show appreciation for all they do. RurAL CAP's Elder Mentor Program, nationally known as the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program, serves children  in pre-K and school settings throughout the state of Alaska. Elder Mentors are senior volunteers age 55 and older who support school readiness and improvement of academic engagement among children with special needs. Elder Mentors receive training, support and a small stipend for their service.

Volunteers connect with children who need extra attention at public schools, Head Starts, and early learning centers. They help children prepare for a successful school career that results in graduation, ultimately equipping them to achieve additional positive outcomes such as employment with a living wage, a healthy lifestyle, and a stable living situation.

This program positively impacts the children, Elders, and teachers involved. Children benefit from individualized support while Elders stay active, spread cultural values, and share knowledge with future generations. As a result, teachers gain valuable help in the classroom plus increased student engagement.  

Elder Mentor Elena Serame from Kodiak, Alaska

Hello! My name is Lanie Lyn V. Serame and I am 78 years young. I am from the Philippines, and I arrived here in Alaska in 1974 to join my husband, and I never left. I still remember when I arrived at the airport in Kodiak, I was so surprised because it was so small. I have two children who are all grown up. They aren't just my children, they are the greatest blessings and joy of my life. Same goes for my four grandchildren.

There are three groups of islands in the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. I grew up in Luzon. Even though we are all one country, our traditions and cultural values vary. We have different dialects, too, and our national language is Tagalog so that we can all understand one another. Here in the United States, and specifically in Alaska, I experienced many different people living here. I believe we should honor our differences in order to live in harmony and shift the way we connect with the world.

I love looking for new adventures and sightseeing. My hobbies include reading novels, crochet, picking rocks at the beach and listening to music. What I love about Kodiak is that it is a peaceful place to raise a family, has beautiful scenery, friendly people, is a short distance to travel, and has no pollution. Kodiak also has good schools, plenty of resources with helpful staff, and a variety of cultures in which we can learn from each other.

You should know that I have a good sense of humor – I make my teammates laugh when they are too serious about something.

I believe I started as an Elder Mentor in 2017. I don't quite remember when I began, it's been a long time. I have so much fun volunteering with the children at our Head Start school: Playing with them, doing different activities, and teaching them all at the same time.

I am very happy to share a delicious Filipino noodle dish with you called "Pancit." Pancit is a Filipino cultural tradition to cook on birthdays and to celebrate the New Year. According to custom, it is a symbol for long life. Every year when my birthday, my children's, and grandchildren's birthday comes around, I cook this dish.

In the community, if there is a birthday party celebration, Pancit is always part of the main menu. You can eat this by itself, or add a side dish like baked or fried chicken, eggrolls or BBQ pork on a stick. Scroll down for the Pancit recipe. I taught my son, "The Dad-Bod Chef," how to make Pancit, and many more Filipino recipes, too. Visit his YouTube page for more information.

Volunteers have a positive impact

Courtesy RurAL CAP

Elena says her volunteer work with Head Start children lets her play with them, lead them in different activities, and teach them all at the same time.

"We really appreciate having Elena here," says Kodiak Head Start Site Supervisor Kathy Johnson. "She's also a mentor for the TA's more than she realizes, not just the kids. She has a way to make suggestions to the staff without overstepping her boundaries. She's not afraid to speak up if she has any questions or concerns. We appreciate her sharing her time and knowledge."

The Elder Mentor Program is currently recruiting senior volunteers for the 2023-2024 school year. Benefits for income eligible seniors age 55+ include paid time off, a tax-free stipend, paid holidays, free meals and travel assistance. Please call for more information and to apply: 907-538-2657, and check out the online application and learn more at Reach the team via e-mail at We are accepting applications on a rolling basis until the fall.

Yasmin Radbod is the RurAL CAP Elder Mentor Recruitment VISTA coordinator.


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2024

Rendered 05/20/2024 20:27