Foster program benefits schools
“To have Miss Chicky, I think, is a lot easier. She helps with a lot of stuff. In fact if we didn’t have Miss Chicky, the class would be somewhere near chaos. But the good luck is we do have a foster parent. Anyone who doesn’t have a foster parent doesn’t know what they’re missing.”
“Joe,” a fourth-grader at Truckee Elementary School, is only one of many students and teachers at the school who is appreciative of the Foster Grandparent Program, which is in its first year in the Tahoe-Truckee School District.
Six senior women are volunteering their time to help teachers at the elementary school. Another senior was adopted for the tutoring program at the Truckee Pines Apartment complex.
“This is such a great program,” said 84-year-old Jackie Hall. “When we started I was only supposed to work for 20 hours, but I find myself giving more time.”
Hall, poet author of Lady of the Lake, said she is learning along with the children. She even helps tutor Spanish classes with the fourth-graders.
“I have a harder time with Spanish because I don’t speak it,” she said. “But I’m slowly learning it with the flashcards that we use to help teach.”
Chicky DiMura, who inadvertently became the senior leader, said the grandparenting group could be so much more to a larger portion of the community.
“We are an unused commodity,” DiMura said. “Truckee Elementary took a chance and invited us in and now we hope other schools will also take the chance.”
DiMura said the program, which was established in 1967, was spearheaded in Truckee by “Miss Joyce” a 20-year veteran of Sacramento’s grandparenting program.
“We really fought to get this program into the schools,” DiMura said. “Glenshire Elementary said no, but Truckee said yes. I think Glenshire (teachers) may be changing their minds about next year.”
TES counselor Jan Susman agreed the program is one of the best offered at the school.
“Anytime teachers can find help it’s worth it,” Susman said. “I didn’t know what the program was all about, but now I realize it’s too good to be true.”
The federally funded program offers participating seniors an hourly stipend of $2.45 to cover out-of-pocket expenses. The seniors volunteer for the hours and commit to making their hours count.
“They really go the extra mile,” said teacher Diane Collinson. “They aren’t in here killing time – that’s for sure.”
With up to 30 children in each fourth grade classroom, Collinson said the extra help is invaluable.
Nancy Yates, who teaches computer technology at the school said her foster grandparent Dorothy Gaines, 84, is learning computers along with the students. Yates trained Gaines and the two work together to bring computer literacy into the students’ lives “smoothly.”
Not all TES students have foster grandparents.
“I think it would be fun to have someone to help me,” second-grader Ryan Abrahamian said. “I wished for a foster grandparent for Christmas.”
Ann-Britt Hakansson said she wanted a foster grandparent to read to.
“I could tell her stuff that happened in school,” Hakansson said. “I could write down stories then read them to her.”
DiMura said the organization’s goal is to raise money so more seniors can participate. She said businesses can donate money for grants for additional seniors and additional hours. The purpose of keeping seniors within the boundaries of the program is also for the liability insurance that is carried through the program.
“There really isn’t any cost to the schools,” she said. “We are covered.”
For information on participating or donating to the program, call (702)358-2768.
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