Foster grandparents are helping young kids realize their potential

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - AmeriCorps Senior Foster Grandparent Program gives seniors the opportunity to interact with kids along with supporting their educational and social development.

Here in Kansas, foster grandparents are serving in the classroom and at the Kansas Neurological Institute.

Director of AmeriCorps Seniors, Atalaya Sergi, said that foster grandparents can help support the connection between school and the community.

“Our elders and our older adults in our communities have a lot of experience, knowledge, and love to give,” stated Sergi. “We should be incorporating them into all aspects of our community so that they can give back and they can keep on supporting us. One of the best places to do that is in our schools.”

Foster grandma, Belinda Williams, said she loves being part of the program and watching the kids learn and grow.

“I see kids when I’m not here, and they run up to me at the grocery store, or wherever. It’s a lot of love, hugs, and I enjoy being here working with the kids and this school,” said Williams. “I just love it. I get a little teary eyed because I love doing what I’m doing with the kids.”

Portfolio Manager for AmeriCorps, Matt Brillhart, says that along with aiding the kids emotionally, the grandparents also help the teachers with educational assistance.

“In a sense, they’re a paraprofessional in that they’re helping kids developmental, they’re assisting with reading,” said Brillhart. “Math is also another area that they’re assisting with.”

Some kids do not have an at home bond with a grandparent. That’s where foster grandparents are able to provide a connection.

Director of the Foster Grandparent Program for Northeast Kansas, Jeff Schroeder, said the grandparents provide great socialization for the kids.

“A lot of the students that our foster grandparents are with may not have those relationships in their own personal lives,” states Schroeder. “They have an opportunity that they can come to school and interact with someone that they can share and build that relationship with and be there for them unconditionally.”