Supporting the “Future of Tomorrow”
By Kate Gavigan
“What would we have done without technology?” is a refrain we are hearing a lot these days with the emergence of COVID-19 and the necessity of quarantine restrictions. The Homage Foster Grandparent program staff and volunteers have been sharing this very same sentiment.
The Foster Grandparent program pairs low-income older adults with children who could benefit from mentoring and other additional support at non-profit settings. With COVID-19 forcing school buildings to close and students to learn remotely, the Foster Grandparents were not able to continue to serve students as they had in the past.
But then this summer, some resourceful Homage Foster Grandparents jumped at the opportunity to use technology to restart their service. Collaborating with the Seattle School District’s Summer School Program, the volunteers were back doing what they do best, serving children, but this time remotely through online support. One of our Foster Grandparents, Mary Floyd shared:
“This work enriches my life because I get to tutor the future of tomorrow and that holds true even when it’s on zoom. It helps me to know that I’m helping the child and the kids know I’m there to increase their success. Students have a variety of social and emotional needs and sometimes it can be challenging to figure out what their needs are. But I’ll listen to them about video games they like and they, in turn, listen to me when I tell them what they need to learn from their teacher. I remind them that this is not a test or a chore, but we’re going to have some fun doing this.”
As the volunteers navigate these new technology waters, they have been delighted to see that though things are very different in one way, many things are the same including that children need and benefit from connection and support. In a recent group Zoom meeting chat with other Foster Grandparents, volunteers shared they help out in the virtual classroom by reading to children, assisting during breakout sessions and providing those virtual “thumbs up” as kids succeed. Foster Grandparent Sam Gilliam notes that, “Some kids take to the technology like a duck to water and other kids are hanging back a bit. But we’re here to help support them and bring them along.”
The Foster Grandparent program is excited to be in conversation with school districts throughout King and Snohomish Counties about the volunteers returning to school in the fall, even if the “return” will be virtual. To quote Mary, the program is here to support the “future of tomorrow” … the children.
For more information:
The Foster Grandparent Program is a federally funded Senior Corps program and provides a small tax-free stipend to low-income volunteers for their service. The volunteers must be located and serve in either King or Snohomish County. For more information on how you can be a Foster Grandparent, contact the Homage Foster Grandparent Program: 425-514-6188.
Kate Gavigan is the Outreach Specialist for the Foster Grandparent Program.