When the coronavirus pandemic hit, both students and volunteer grandparents, two of our most vulnerable populations, were sent home from school for their safety. Students were eventually able to go back to campus, but volunteers had to wait a little longer. It was then, Mrs. Laura Cardenas a teacher with Fresno EOC Head Start 0 to 5 created “Grandma Ruth’s Corner” in her classroom at the Dakota Circle Center location.
Mrs. Cardenas says Grandma Ruth has volunteered in her classroom for years and plays a very important role. As part of the Foster Grandparent Program, senior volunteers promote literacy and academic success while also serving as mentors and providing emotional support to children. “She brings so much to our students. Grandma Ruth reads stories to the kids, helps them with their assignments, provides a shoulder to lean on for those children who may not have a grandparent, and she is able to share so much about her life experiences.” And with jobs held over the years at the telephone company, the post office, a courthouse, a hospital, and Frito Lay she has plenty of stories to tell.
Mrs. Cardenas turned to technology to keep the connection between Grandma Ruth and the students going strong. The Head Start teacher provided her little learners with a school-issued tablet so they could reach out via Zoom and Grandma Ruth was ready for them. She says she became more tech-savvy during the pandemic. In April 2021, she was able to go through Technology Training with 30 other seniors in the Foster Grandparent Program “to gain new skills to continue our work in the classroom.”
“Grandma Ruth’s Corner” became a hit. Mrs. Cardenas said, “We started out with a space in the classroom dedicated to Grandma Ruth hosting story time, but that quickly expanded and the kids started taking her everywhere. They went outside to the school garden, or they would show her their sidewalk chalk art.”
Grandma Ruth said it’s a great feeling to have that connection with the kids and to know they appreciate their time with her. She says, “They didn’t mind carrying me around. You know, I told them, ‘I want you guys want to go play. Go play and enjoy yourself. I’ll be here.’ The kids would tell me, ‘No, we want you to go with us and watch us draw. And they set me down on the pavement down there and we were able to share some nice moments like that.”
Both students and Grandma Ruth are now back in the classroom, after getting clearance and a hi-tech lesson in making connections.
Senior volunteers provide mentoring and emotional support to underserved infants, children, and teens throughout Fresno and Madera Counties. They promote academic success as well as fostering social-emotional and cognitive-behavioral development.
The Foster Grandparent Program also promotes quality of life for seniors. A Foster Grandparent extends love and wisdom and devotes time and attention to mentor and nurture a young person who otherwise might not receive heartfelt sharing and caring. In exchange, the Foster Grandparent is afforded a rewarding opportunity to make a difference in the life of another, which in turn contributes toward an enhanced sense of purpose and self-worth.
Head Start 0 to 5 is a federally funded community-based program for income eligible pregnant women and children ages birth to five, inclusive of children with disabilities. We provide comprehensive child development and family support services, including education, social, emotional, health, nutrition, family support, and disability services. Head Start 0 to 5 is committed to building strong children and families.
Our goals are:
- to promote healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women
- to enhance the development of children ages birth to five
- to promote healthy family functioning
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