PRYOR, OK —
Students in Mayes County who may be struggling with certain subjects in school have another tool to help them thanks to the Foster Grandparent Program.
The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) pairs volunteers over the age of 55 with school-aged children to offer services in a variety of ways, including tutoring.
Offered through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), volunteers serve in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, juvenile offender facilities, Head Start centers, child care centers, and other community and home-based sites, according to the website.
“Foster Grandparents are volunteers who have love to give to children with special needs in schools, child care facilities and Head Start Programs,” OKDHS said. “The volunteers share more than just hugs and happiness. They work with children one-on-one or in small groups helping them improve their physical, mental, social and academic development.”
Pryor resident George Potter is volunteering as a Foster Grandparent at Jefferson Elementary School.
“Once you go through the application process, they put you in the school closest to you,” Potter said.
He works three days a week tutoring students in various subjects that pose a challenge to the youngsters.
“The teachers select the students that need the help and set them up with us,” he said.
Potter meets with the kids one or two at a time during school hours.
“I’ll spend 15 or 20 minutes per session,” he said.
Foster Grandparents serve from 15 to 40 hours per week and receive hourly non-taxable stipends, according to OKDHS.
“In addition to the stipend, they receive accident, personal liability, and excess automobile insurance; assistance with the cost of transportation; an annual physical examination; recognition and, as feasible, meals during their assignments,” OKDHS states on the website.
The real reward, according to Potter, is the time he gets to spend with the kids.
“You know, I’m not young anymore. I’m tired in the mornings and then I walk in and they ...” Potter said, his voice breaking as he became emotional. “It rejuvenates me. You feed off of them.”
He said it is particularly rewarding when he’s tutoring a concept the student finally understands.
“When the light bulb goes off in their eyes, it’s wonderful. It’s enlightening,” he said. “I often wonder who is teaching who.”
Potter said there is a need for more volunteers. Volunteers are screened and undergo a background check. Once approved, volunteers attend a two-day training session before being placed.
“It would be a Godsend for retired people who need something to do,” he said. “I wish I’d known years ago. This is my thing.”
To find out more about the Foster Grandparent Program, contact Coordinator Rosanne Stanley at 918-207-8909 or 918-316-1411.