Across the district, senior citizens are forging relationships with students in Nampa elementary schools to help keep them engaged and learning. Foster Grandparent volunteers mentor and tutor kids, providing dependable, encouraging support in the classroom.
Foster Grandparents primarily focus on helping with reading and literacy skills, although volunteers also are allowed to follow their passions in other subjects, such as math and science. To ensure the Grandparents form meaningful connections with students, they must commit to five hours over at least two days per week; some work up to 40 hours per week.
Nampa volunteers account for more than half of the postings in the Treasure Valley, making the district a key partner for the program.
The Grandparents often work in more than one classroom each week, may help with different grades and subjects, and sometimes even switch between schools. But they all strive to build strong rapport with teachers, who come to rely on their assistance in the face of limited resources.
“Grandma Coralee is so very special to not only my classroom but our entire grade level,” reported another teacher. “She is so dependable and loving to all the kiddos. They absolutely adore her!”
Foster Grandparents are 55 or older and living on a limited income. The program pays a $4 per hour non-taxable stipend. Locally, it is funded through an AmeriCorps Seniors grant. Volunteers undergo four different background checks – statewide, national, sex offender and driving record. They also receive 20 hours of training, including shadowing a current volunteer, before being given an assignment.
The program’s success is reflected in their success in the classroom. One teacher reported that her class of 29 students saw 100 percent growth in math and 93 percent growth in reading.
“For a class of this size to have these types of results is atypical to say the least. I absolutely contribute these results to the caring, consistent, and coordinated work with my grandparent volunteers.”
In Their Own Words
“I read the book ‘Tacky, the Penguin’ to this first-grade class. They were so attentive and interested. Of course, at least half of the class wanted to tell me something. I told them to wait until I was through reading and they could line up and each share a little tidbit with me. There were probably 12 students in line. They shared things like ‘My dad is just like Tacky,’ and, ‘I have to go to daycare tomorrow and I am scared.’ At the very end of the line was a little dark-haired girl. She had waited very patiently. She came up to me and sidled really close so she could whisper in my ear. She said, ‘Grandma Judy, thank you for coming to our school.’ She brought tears to my eyes. I told her teacher and her class how much that message touched me. It made me cry then and now. I think it was a message that I needed.”
How to Volunteer
If you know someone who would like to become a volunteer or if you are seeking a Foster Grandparent volunteer for your school, contact Asia Miller, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, at 208-947-4280 or [email protected]. Or visit https://www.jannus.org/program/foster-grandparent-program-of-the-treasure-valley to learn more about the program.