Stories

Foster Grandparents: Leaving a Legacy of Learning and Loving

“Look who is here! Grandma’s here!” This greeting is how Mary Jones aka “Grandma Mary” greeted the twenty children who eagerly awaited her arrival to their classroom at KIPP Henry Collegiate Elementary. Not surprisingly, Grandma Mary was a popular figure at KIPP Henry where she volunteered for the past five years and was a strong recruiter of other Foster Grandparents.

After retiring from Porter-Leath as an employee, Ms. Jones decided she wanted to spend time in the classroom in a different role. Having taught students for several years, Ms. Jones wanted to do something to encourage children’s self confidence and provide a sounding board for students who may not know how to regulate their emotions. As a Foster Grandparent, Grandma Mary provided additional educational assistance to classroom teachers and supported children with attention, hugs and reassurance. “I saw the need,” she said, adding, “Every home is different and children are a product of their home. When you are up there (in the classroom) teaching, you can see the hurt, the ones that don’t get the hugs or don’t get told ‘I love you.’”

Lest you think Grandma Mary a pushover, she created clear expectations for a student’s behavior in class. She explains, “I loved to joke and laugh with the children but when it was time to focus on work, I would say ‘Now we are going to get down to business. You can continue to be silly over there, but if you want to be over here, you need to be doing business.” It was this balance that made Grandma Mary an asset to KIPP Henry. She was the perfect friend of every three, four and five year old that she encountered.

Grandma Mary has retired a second time now, but her positive attitude and jolly laugh can still be felt in the hearts of those students at KIPP Henry. After moving to Danville, Illinois to be closer to her family, she intends on finding a way to carry on her mission to support preschool classes and students. “When I get to Danville, Illinois,” she said “my first order of business is to go to city hall, tell them about the Foster Grandparents in Memphis, and convince them they need Foster Grandparents too.

To learn more about our Generations Program, contact Judy Rautine.

All eyes are on Grandma Mary as she reads a class favorite, Harry the Dirty Dog.

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