Ah, retirement! We dream about it, save for it, and imagine how we’ll fill our days. While many seniors and retirees find countless ways to spend their time, others discover extra time on their hands. Living costs continue to rise faster than retirement benefits, and low-income seniors are hit particularly hard.
Teachers never seem to have enough time or resources to meet all the demands placed on them and their students, and the pandemic left many students behind in reading.
Not every student has a strong family support system to encourage and help to catch up in any areas where they struggle.
But there is one excellent resource that serves to fill the gap for seniors, teachers, and students. The South Central Human Resource Agency’s (SCHRA) Foster Grandparent Program, funded through AmeriCorps Seniors, is that bridge.
Jeana Mills, Foster Grandparent Program director, said Bedford, Franklin, Coffee, and Lincoln County headstarts, schools, and after-school programs are among the 13 counties covered in our area. Foster grandparents presently serve 27 students in Lincoln and Franklin Counties. SCHRA is ready and able to connect students, seniors, headstarts, schools, and after-school programs in Bedford and Coffee Counties.”
Mills said, “We currently serve 23 partnerships in our area, and my goal is to establish a partnership with Bedford and Coffee [Counties]. While headstart programs usually receive only one [grandparent], we can cover a larger area in our school systems.”
The volunteer program is open to all seniors. Travel is reimbursed, and participating seniors are paid $4 per hour. Volunteers must work at least five hours weekly and may choose to work up to 40 hours weekly.
Flintville Elementary volunteer Mary Arnold has been Flintville’s foster granny for eight years. Bonds are formed while working with the students in math and reading, and they continue long after the school year ends
The first graders I started the program with are graduating this year, and they still have connections with me. It’s a good organization. I enjoy working with it, and it helps a lot of kids out.”
Flintville Elementary Principal David Golden agrees. “The Foster Grandparent Program is an important component in student learning at Flintville School. Our foster grandparents work directly with students in small group instruction during reading and math centers, and the results are always positive. Not to mention, everyone here loves our foster grandparents because they add another level of positive energy to our culture with their wisdom and humor,” he said.
Mills explained the Foster Grandparent Program requirements. “To qualify, they must be low income, over 55, and able to pass a background check. They receive 40 hours of training — 20 hours with us and 20 hours shadowing someone at the school,” she said.
Mills continued, “It’s just a win-win. The kids get extra help, the teachers get extra help, and senior citizens stay active and engaged in the community. Every morning, they have a purpose to get out of bed and push themselves to keep going. It’s a really good program that works hand in hand between both generations.” GN