Baltimore City

How Baltimore tutors fought to keep an AARP tutoring program in the city

Jamal Davis wanted to do something when he learned in May that Experience Corps, a tutoring program that links Baltimore City schools with adults 50 and older, might close its doors.

Experience Corps is run by the Washington, D.C.-based AARP Foundation, which advocates for adults 50 and older. After AARP changed the model for it tutoring program, a group of Baltimore-area tutors launched a campaign to keep it going.


“When I heard about it, I reached out to [the tutors], and asked if we could meet and just shared something with them,” said Davis, who joined Experience Corps in 2014 and has served as a tutor and a site coordinator. He was previously paid $400 per month. “I knew about the program and funding sources, and some people out there that might lend an ear to what we were trying to do.”

Elected leaders, including Democratic State Senate President Bill Ferguson and Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, later intervened, according to Davis. Cohen said he contacted AARP officials on behalf of the tutors and warned them that this kind of disinvestment would harm some of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. Cohen said that some of the areas he represents would have been affected, though he is unsure which ones.


“For me, the decision to leave and evacuate Baltimore was unacceptable, and we asked that AARP consider some different form of investment,” he said.

Jamal Davis, a volunteer for AARP Foundation Experience Corps, a program that connects tutors 50 years and older with city schools. Davis is at the Waverly branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

David Schuhlein, a spokesperson for Ferguson, wrote in an email that among Ferguson’s efforts to keep the program, he “advocated to the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership that they fund an Elev8 proposal for a $38,000 grant to provide stipends to Experience Corps [tutors].”

In an email sent to Cohen on Dec. 20, Mioshi Moses, vice president of AARP Foundation Experience Corps, wrote that the foundation will relaunch the program and it will partner with the YMCA in Central Maryland and Elev8 Baltimore, a student-focused charity. Alexandria Warrick Adams, executive director of Elev8, said her office will coordinate the tutoring.

“AARP Foundation has invested $300,000 for each [Elev8 and the YMCA] program over the course of three years,” Moses wrote.

Moses was unavailable for comment. It’s not clear how tutors will be compensated when the program relaunches or how AARP will distribute the additional funds.

The goal of Experience Corps is to help students read at their respective grade level by third grade, according to the foundation. The program, which began in Baltimore 12 years ago, at its pre-COVID height worked with 233 classrooms in 31 schools and after-school facilities, according to the foundation’s most recent data.

“Children who had these older adults as tutors made better than 60% more progress in two reading skills: reading comprehension and sounding out words,” The Baltimore Sun previously reported.

Tierra Thompson said two of her children participated in the program while attending the Johnston Square Elementary School. She said the program helped them get better grades in math. As a single mother at the time, Thompson, of East Baltimore, said having access to a program like this demonstrates to her that the teachers care about her children because they identify areas in need of development.


Davis, 61, is from Brooklyn, New York, and lives in Govans in North Baltimore.

He learned about Experience Corps after undergoing hip replacement surgery in 2014 and was looking for ways to get back into the workforce. He’s disabled and is no longer able to run or engage in other physical activity.

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“Experience Corps gave me an opportunity to see that my life wasn’t over just because of this hip being replaced,” Davis said. “It’s been a wonderful experience going into the schools.”

Davis tutors at several schools, including Barclay Elementary/Middle School and Garrett Heights Elementary/Middle School.

He said he loves every aspect of being a tutor. For instance, he recalled the time he was able to comfort an Experience Corps crying third grader seven years ago after someone called her “stupid.”

Experience Corps organized a celebration at the Weinberg YMCA in Waverly to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about four years after the incident. The student was one of the speakers tasked to recite King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.


He said he cried when he saw her.

“That to me told me I was doing something right. To remember her in that hallway and four years later she was in a position to be a speaker at a public [space], that’s the power of Experience Corps.”

This article is part of our Newsmaker series, which profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at

For the record

A previous version of this story misstated AARP's position on funding a tutoring program in Baltimore City. The Sun regrets the error.