Giving Thanks for Volunteers: Lessons from the Foster Grandparent of the Year

“I want children to grow up and know that they are somebody ... that they are important.” This sentiment is just one of the many reasons why Regina Walker volunteered as a Foster Grandparent. Ms. Walker routinely volunteered her time as a Foster Grandparent for many years.  Granny Walker, her newest moniker, was encouraged by a fellow church member to give back and join Porter-Leath's cadre of Foster Grandparents. She was even named Foster Grandparent of the Year at the 2018 Foster Grandparent Recognition luncheon. Walker, who often chooses to quietly observe the class, while helping the teacher cut, fold or organize, described one of her roles as a modeling respect for the teacher. 

When not preparing materials for the class or sorting assignments into students’ folders, Walker enjoyed helping students with their assignments both one-on-one or in small groups. She recounted one special friendship that formed between her and a  student that needed extra help with work. She mentioned to him one day that he was a super star on the computer! After she recognized his aptitude for computers, she found he would ask her for help when he needed it. Granny Walker enjoys giving students trinkets like pencils and erasers for their birthdays. She uses it as a opportunity to teach students about altruism and gratitude. 

Granny Walker, worked for 21 years at Shelby State Community College (now Southwest Tennessee Community College) and then for the University of Memphis. She always wanted to be a teacher but an an aneurysm and a stroke prevented her from finishing the coursework. Walker views her Foster Grandparent work as a second chance to have an impact on children and the classroom. She views her time with the class as a blessing, and stated “there are so many children who don’t have anyone,” adding that she would not trade her time serving students for any other activity. 

*Note: Foster Grandparents have not been able to be physically in the classroom this academic year because of COVID-19, but hope to return in 2021.*