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Foster Grandparents help students learn and grow at Hawthorne image

Foster Grandparents help students learn and grow at Hawthorne

Most teachers would welcome an extra pair of hands in the classroom, but Foster Grandparents provide more than that.

“They give their hearts and hands every day,” Principal Amy Kelly said of the four Foster Grandparents at Hawthorne Elementary School.

Grandpa Steve Jensen, Grandma Donna Kerr, Grandma Jean Weber and Donna Hajek, known around the school as Nana H., volunteer with the Foster Grandparents program through Senior Action of Hastings.

“Our four grandparent volunteers have been with us for quite a few years,” Kelly said. “It’s almost like having four more employees, honestly.”

AmeriCorps Seniors, the national umbrella agency under which the program falls, says Foster Grandparents provide comfort and love that sets a child on a path to a successful future.

The Foster Grandparents do that in a number of ways at Hawthorne Elementary.

Grandpa Steve not only reads to Hawthorne’s preschoolers but also serves their breakfast and lunch.

Grandma Jean uses an oxygen tank but comes to school every day, Kelly said.

Nana H. is the only Foster Grandparent who has actually had grandchildren at Hawthorne, the principal said. Although her grandchildren will move out of the district next year, Nana H. plans to continue volunteering at Hawthorne.

Grandma Donna helps a lot with kindergarten students.

Kelly told of a particular girl who was having trouble developing reading skills in kindergarten. Grandma Donna worked with her using flash cards.

“Now she’s really blossomed as a fifth-grader,” Kelly said of the student. She’s ready to take on middle school, thanks in part to the extra help she received from Grandma Donna in kindergarten.

Kelly said Foster Grandparents provide a stability that’s missing in the lives of many students these days. Even after students advance to the next grade, they still see the Foster Grandparents around the school.

“They can still hold onto that relationship,” Kelly said.

“We’re truly blessed with the relationships our kids have with the grandparents,” she said. “They’re really an asset to our school.”