MESA COUNTY, Colo. Seniors on the Western Slope are finding a way to stay connected to the community by helping students thrive. St. Mary's Foster Grandparent Program provides children with one on one mentoring and tutoring.
January marks National Mentoring Month, making it a perfect time to highlight those in the community who mentor young people in education. Volunteers in the Foster Grandparent Program are doing just that.
Barbara Reynolds never thought she would return to school as an adult, but she's back in the second grade at Nisley Elementary School, volunteering through St. Mary's Foster Grandparent Program.
"Oh it is so rewarding...I get to help with math, reading and handwriting," said Barbara Reynolds, a Foster Grandparent volunteer.
Foster Grandparents must be 55 or older. The program places them in classrooms where they're able to use life experiences to tutor and mentor special needs or at risk youth.
"Kids that I work with, they usually need the one on one attention and I can't tell you how much it affects me watching their growth throughout the school year," said Reynolds.
Foster Grandparent program organizer, Tanya Fink, says their focus is to make sure children end up getting their high school diploma.
"Our goal is that our volunteers will help to make a difference with these kids so that these kids will eventually graduate from high school and enjoy school while they're there," said Tanya Fink, organizer for St. Mary’s Foster Grandparent program.
For many seniors, the program can help them financially.
“They can earn a modest non-taxable stipend if they meet income requirements," said Fink.
Many volunteers like Barbara, find not only are they able to make a difference in their students' lives, but their lives change for the better too.
“The hug ratio working with second graders, I probably have more hugs in one hour than most adults get in a lifetime," said Reynolds.
Barbara Reynolds volunteers five days a week for five hours a day. She says she doesn't miss a day of school because her work is so exciting. She also adds, her enthusiasm has helped some students' attendance improve at school.
St. Mary's 2013 Foster Grandparent Program evaluation showed 100% of teachers felt foster grandparents made a positive impact in their classroom. For more information, you can call 298-9091 to reach foster grandparent program organizers.