JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lou Crompton guides Voyager Charter School seventh-grader Ivory Kokoo-Pasion with a math word problem at Voyager Charter School in Kakaako. Crompton volunteers with the RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) as a math tutor and assists kids from fifth- through eighth-grades.
Retiree stays young by tutoring children
Lou Crompton, a self-described "little old haole guy," says teachers usually can't believe he can command the respect of biggest, most disruptive kids in their classes and actually get them to learn.
Volunteer programs could use your help
Along with RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), volunteers can sign up for the Respite Companion Program and the Senior Companion Program, all under the state Department of Human Services. Call 586-5192 for more information.
Respite Companion Program
Provides part-time employment and training to low-income (less than $15,225 a year) individuals age 55 and over to prepare them to serve in adult day care, health care or food service; 19 hours a week for minimum wage.
Senior Companion Program
Recruits healthy seniors to serve frail seniors of any income level to maintain their independence at home as long as possible. Volunteers must be 60-plus, and have a low income; they will receive a $2.65-an-hour stipend, nontaxable, plus other benefits.
City Hotline for Senior Services, 523-4545; publishes a handbook listing all private/nonprofit/government services available to the elderly.
"Any one of them could pick me up and throw me out the window," says the 64-year-old retiree. Still, Crompton adds, he gains their trust by telling them: "The only reason I'm here is to help you -- because I care."
Crompton has been a volunteer tutor with the state's Retired Senior and Volunteer Program and other organizations for 10 years.
RSVP, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, provides volunteers over 55 to nonprofit and public agencies.
The state Department of Human Services took over the reins of the program in January from Helping Hands Hawaii.
Crompton doesn't keep track of how many hours he volunteers each week, though working seven days is not unusual. "This is my hobby," he says.
The New Jersey-born former engineer and Air Force officer never had any experience teaching before he retired to Hawaii with his wife in 1997.
Now he helps fifth- and sixth-graders who are "kind of wayward, discipline problems" and have fallen way behind in reading or math.
"Keawe," a 5th-grader at Lincoln School, was reading at the third-grade level at the beginning of the school year and unable to stay focused.
Now he is reading close to his grade level , Crompton says.
After Keawe's 30 minutes were up with "Mr. Lou" and the next student was due, Keawe asked: "If they don't want to come, can I come again?"
His teacher, Alice Yip, says her students "often give up recess and ask to stay with Mr. Lou," who has been helping her students for at least five years.
"They really enjoy the time they have with him. They get the one-on-one adult relationship time they don't get at home. They feel very successful with him," Yip says.
His secret for success? "Treat them with respect. If a student doesn't know the answer, a teacher will often chide them, or scold them, make fun of them," he says.
Crompton's says his desire to "help kids with no money" is a result of his growing up as "the only white kid in a black ghetto." His father abandoned his family when Crompton was 2 months old, and he was raised by his mom.
"I've always had a weak spot for helping poor kids who need a break ... who can't afford to hire a tutor at $45 an hour," Crompton says.
"It keeps me the same age as my kids," he says of volunteering. "It keeps my brain active. I enjoy helping kids."