GREENSBURG — What's the next best thing to a grandma or grandpa? A foster grandparent!
Last year 4,500 kids across the state were mentored by foster grandparents in their classrooms — and this year the schools need more.
"If I didn't come in here, I'd just be sitting at home being bored," Beverly Hargitt, an 86-year-old woman who has served as a foster grandparent for eight years, said.
The second graders are Greensburg Elementary School love Hargitt. Though she may not be every second-grader at Greensburg Elementary's technical grandparent — already having plenty of her own — she sure acts like it.
"Oh yeah. I've got eight grandchildren and six — or I can't even remember how many great-grandchildren," Hargitt said.
"Sometimes I have a bad day, and grandma helps cheer me up," Carter Beagle, a second-grade student at Greensburg Elementary, said. "Like today, I read a book with her."
Whether it be spelling or math, grandma is there.
"Maybe I have a student who needs in a little extra practice on something with reading," Michelle Scudder, a teacher at Greensburg Elementary, said. "Or they maybe just need a confidence builder, and they just need that friend and that interaction."
"I hope I help them, and I can tell they feel closer to me, I think," Hargitt said. "They just called me grandma. And to them, I'm just grandma."
What is the foster grandparent program?
If you haven't heard of the foster grandparent program before, people 55 and older can apply to serve as one-on-one tutors to children.
The grandparents go through training and local, state, and federal background checks to work about four hours a day, three to four times a week.
Not only does this give senior citizens something to do, but it also keeps people who generally have a lower-income are engaged in their community. The program also serves as an extra support system for any child who might be struggling.
The need for grandparents is driven by the children's' need for reliable mentors in their lives. Thrive Alliance sponsors the program in Indiana's southern counties. But this program is offered in every region across the state.