When Clarita Perez de Alejo retired four years ago from the corporate world, she traveled extensively and spent time with her grandchildren. Then
"I kept thinking, 'What else can I do?' " she says. "I felt I had a lot to contribute. I still wanted to help out."
Last month, Perez de Alejo, 66, found a place where she can use a lifetime's worth of skills in the beauty industry. Through a new organization, ReServe Miami, which pairs older executives and professionals with nonprofits, government agencies and public institutions, she began working at Braddock High School in West Kendall, helping college adviser Maria Mendoza with the task of preparing more than 750 seniors for the college application season.
Her duties are varied -- from answering students' questions to organizing the college fair -- and she loves it. "I already feel like I belong here," she says.
Mendoza, Braddock's college adviser, says the feeling is mutual: "She's been such an amazing help. Having her here frees me up to do what I need to do -- provide services to the students."
Perez de Alejo is one of 25 ReServists who have gone through three days of training in preparation for their post-retirement jobs. Sixteen of them are working as college mentors in Miami-Dade's public schools, and eight are slotted to work in adult education, teaching everything from literacy to computer skills and resume writing. One works at Catalyst Miami, the community organization that brought ReServe south from New York.
This first batch of ReServists range in age from 55 -- the minimum age -- to 82. Their work experiences are varied. One was a business owner, another a college executive. All share a common denominator: They want to stay active.
"The majority are not satisfied with traditional volunteering," says Dacia Steiner, ReServe Miami's program director. "They don't want to lick envelopes and make cold calls. But they miss the camaraderie of a workplace."
"I was bored silly," says John Dubey, a retired corporate executive about why he works as a ReServist.
Dubey, 71, attended an information session sponsored by ReServe. "I thought it sounded terrific," he adds. "It was what I was looking for."
Like Perez de Alejo, Dubey helps out the college adviser at Jackson High School, Ana Ros. He's pitched in with the scholarship bulletin, organized the community hours requirement for students and registered seniors and juniors for the ACT college test.
"The way I look at is that I'm here to assist the college adviser in whatever way she needs," he says. "I'm not a manager but an appendage."
ReServe was founded in New York in 2005. Since then the group has placed more than 1,900 people into part-time jobs.
Earlier this year, ReServe received a grant from AmeriCorps to cover 30 percent of its operating budget. It then secured matching funds from the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, American Express, the Kennedy Family Foundation and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.