Across the country, including in D.C., about 20,000 seniors volunteer every day in thousands of schools as ‘foster’ grandparents, helping and teaching children alongside other teachers.
Grandma Margie Dixon works as a foster grandparent at Excel Public School in Southeast Washington. She works with other teachers in the school, helping students excel in academics and other activities.
Similarly, Grandmas Margie Dixon, Wanda Brookings and Maureen Brooks enjoy their time with the children at their schools.
“Well it’s a joy to get up every morning knowing that a smile and a hug is waiting for me. Who wouldn’t want to get up and get that?” said Grandma Wanda. “They need me and I need them each and every day.”
Principal Tenia Pritchard said the grandparents are role models for their young ladies, adding that children like the presence of grandparents in classrooms.
“Our grandmothers live in the communities so they see our young ladies at the grocery store, on the buses. And so the girls, when they’re at home and in their communities and with their families, they can see a part of school,” said Pritchard.
Cheryl Christmas, who runs the D.C. program, one of the largest in the country for foster grandparents, said they try to match them in areas and in schools in early childhood that people are struggling. “The kids benefit from the social emotional connection and then for the grandparents, they too are learning,” said Christmas.
Seniors who earn less than twice the federal poverty level are eligible for the program. The Corporation for National and Community Service aids over 150,000 young people across the country to work with 22,000 foster grandparents in every state.
Grandmothers say that the most valuable benefit of the program for them is in the classroom.
“I had one little girl to tell me she said ‘Do you know how much I love you.’ You know how you turned your eyes because you have tears. I said ‘you just don’t know how much I love you today baby’,” said Grandma Margie.
“Because you see so many children they don’t get the love, they have no idea what love is about. And to me, to share my love. That could take them a long ways,” she added.