KAYSVILLE - Everyone who participates in this program wins.
They might be six-years old, they might be 60. They might be learning to read, they might have a life-long love of reading.
When they get together, it’s “wonderful,” according to Charity Rowberry, program director for the Foster Grandparent Program of Weber Human Services.
Rowberry’s job is to match interested seniors with interested schools, helping provide tutors where there are children who would benefit from individualized help.
“It’s a win for the kids,” she said, “to have a caring adult day in and day out. They might be shy or embarrassed at first, but over time they build a relationship and they just kind of blossom.”
It’s a win for the schools, she said, which are “desperately in need of help” because teachers have so little time and so many students.
“It’s a win for the volunteers,” she added. “It gets them out in the community and studies show that it helps both mentally and physically.” Some studies show seniors who stay connected even live longer, she said.
The foster grandparent program run by Weber Human Services reaches into five counties in northern Utah and involves 1,500 people, including around 500 in Davis County.
According to Rowberry, 89 percent of the student tutored by seniors in the program showed improvement last year, and 44 percent saw test scores reach benchmark scores for their grades, “which is awesome,” she said.
Adult participants must be over 55 and willing to work at least 15 hours a week in the schools. They will be interviewed and must pass an FBI background check.
For those at 200 percent of the poverty level or below, a small stipend of $2.65 per hour plus mileage reimbursement helps offset the costs that often come with volunteering. Participants also get a free meal on the days they are tutoring.
Each adult tutors an average of 20 elementary students, meeting with them for 15 or 20 minutes two to three times a week.
Rowberry said the foster grandparents often stay 10 years or more at schools and when that happens, every child in the school comes to know them.
“It’s just a wonderful program and it builds a wonderful environment at the school day after day and year after year,” she said.
Those interested in learning more about being a foster grandparent can call 1-800-209-2503.