She helps out with just about everything. Most often, her day involves homework and project help, having one on one time with students who need some extra support, and of course in this weather, helping the students put their winter gear on for recess.
Gina first heard about the Foster Grandparent Program in the newspaper. Although Gina is a grandmother, her family doesn’t live close by, which made it difficult to fulfill her love for spending time with kids. When she finally made the decision to join the program, she remembers feeling nervous, not knowing what to expect. “We always fear the unknown, but once I settled in, it filled me. I’ve been happier, more content, and just feel lifted.”
Gina says that joining the Foster Grandparent Program has made a huge difference in her life, remarking that without it, life was boring. With Saint Benedict being such a small school, everyone is happy to see her familiar face every week. “The children look forward to seeing me. They’ll ask, ‘is Miss Gina coming?’ Sometimes you don’t get that with adults!” One of her favorite things to do is to walk hand in hand with the students through the halls. When passing other classrooms, it’s not uncommon for students who have previously had Gina in their classroom to wave or come out to greet her.
Volunteering these past few years hasn’t exactly been easy. When the pandemic first hit in March of 2020, Gina was sent home from school for over a year. She kept in touch with staff, and regularly checked in to ask when she would be able to return. “I could still hear the kids playing on the playground. It was really sad.” Luckily, the waiting finally ended. Gina was overjoyed when the school was able to welcome her back this past fall. She missed the students, and the students missed her just as much. It’s no secret why she is so loved- “I talk to them, even if it’s not about schoolwork. I’m not there to scold or judge. I’m there to help and be a shoulder, maybe be an older friend- somebody they can talk to. And they do!”
Gina shares that her fondest memory of her time at Saint Benedict is when she gave gift bags to all of the students in her class. Later on, she was told there was a thank-you card waiting for her. Much to her surprise, this was no ordinary card. It was nearly as big as a poster, and had cut-outs of each student’s hand with a personal thank-you note written on each one. “It’s hanging in my room. I will never forget that. Never.”
Gina would recommend the Foster Grandparent Program to seniors with a will to make a difference, and to teachers who are considering having a Foster Grandparent in their class. “These kids are our future. I’m glad I’m helping and making a difference for at least a couple of the children.”