FORT BEND ISD (February 13, 2020) – Who would have thought that five adult volunteers could make such a huge impact on the students and staff at Armstrong Elementary in just a few short months? Since October of this school year, the Foster Grandparents, as they are known, have graced the classrooms, lunchroom and other areas of the school to ensure that students are provided the extra support and care they need to succeed.
“The Foster Grandparent Program has proven to be beneficial for Armstrong. Within a short time period, they have built positive relationships with several of our students, assisting them academically, emotionally and socially. Often times you will hear our students refer to them as ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’. Our staff members have also embraced our Foster Grandparents and hope to have more within the near future,” said Armstrong Elementary Principal Nancy Sanchez.
“We love our Foster Grandparents! We currently have five individuals volunteering with us. They’re giving that extra love and gentle care that students want, and that’s what we love about them,” said Armstrong's Parent Educator Shaneka Richardson.
Armstrong’s Foster Grandparents, all of whom are trained volunteers, include Cynthia Frierson, Delois Blueitt, Shyrl Bolton and married couple Maria Teresa Ospina and Jairo Arias. They are participants of the Texas Health and Human Services’ Foster Grandparents Program. The program is funded primarily by the Corporation for National Community Service and serves a dual purpose – to provide income-eligible adults, age 55 and older, with meaningful volunteer opportunities and meet critical community needs by serving children with exceptional needs. The program has been in operation since 1965 and is available at 17 different sites in Texas, eight of which are administered by Texas Health and Human Services.
Retired Fort Bend ISD employee Delois Blueitt was happy to return to the district in her new role as a Foster Grandparent. Her first year in the program, she volunteers four days a week and looks forward to working with the Armstrong students and staff.
“It’s very rewarding for me to support the school, and I hope I’m doing a good job working with the students,” said Blueitt. “I help PPCD [Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities] and kindergarten students stay on task, and help first graders with reading and math.”
She also volunteers with FBISD’s Shared Dreams Program during back to school, the Holiday Cheer event in the winter, and supports Second Mile Ministries and Houston’s Food Bank.
Like Blueitt, married couple Maria Teresa Ospina and Jairo Arias also look forward to volunteering as Foster Grandparents. They spend five days a week mentoring, tutoring and motivating first grade bilingual students at Armstrong to do their best each day. They also teach students life skills, such as tying shoelaces.
The two have been married for 50 years and have two adult sons. Although they have no biological grandchildren of their own, they both agree that “the Armstrong students are our grandchildren and that makes us very happy.”
Mrs. Ospina says the program not only benefits the students and staff, but the Foster Grandparents as well. “Interacting with the students and teachers keeps us physically and mentally active and gives us a chance to give back to society,” said Ospina.
Even more excited about the Foster Grandparents program are the Armstrong students and teachers.
Second grade student Elizabeth Trejo admits she gets happy when she sees Ms. Bolton, or Grandma Grace as she calls her.
“I really like Grandma Grace because she helps me learn math problems and sound out words and read chapter books,” said Trejo. “We also get to eat lunch together and talk about my day.”
Bilingual kindergarten teacher Roxana Garcia is also super excited to have Grandma Grace support her class.
“She is a big help to me. She sorts, labels and organizes classroom resources, and helps my students form letter formations and learn to cut and glue items,” said Garcia. “We love her and are so blessed to have her in our classroom.”