WARREN - Area seniors who don't mind getting out of the house to work with children in classrooms are who the Foster Grandparents program wants.
Virginia Holmes, program manager, said Foster Grandparents programs in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties are run through the Family and Community Service Inc. in Ravenna.
The programs provide tutors and mentors to children and youth with special needs.
J.R. Chilton of Liberty and Barbara Morgan of Warren, both volunteers with the Foster Grandparents Program of Trumbull County, speak to a group of youth attending the summer program at United Methodist Community Center in Warren. Seated are Damion Coleman, 12, Bre’Asia McManis, 13, Janikqua Prieto, 12, and in foreground Jashelle Fiffer, 14, and Morgan Brown, 13.
Barbara Morgan of Warren, who is starting her sixth year as a volunteer with the program, will spend time helping children this month at the summer camp at the United Methodist Community Center in Warren.
"I started out in the STARS (Seniors Teaching and Reaching Students) program, which then led me to the Foster Grandparents program, going into schools to help young children with whatever subject they may have been having difficulty in,'' Morgan said.
Many of the children simply want someone to show them a little attention, she said.
About the program
The Foster Grandparents program, which began nationally in 1965, states as its mission to provide loving and experienced tutors and mentors to children and youth with special needs. Foster Grandparents provide support in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, correctional institutions and child care centers. Volunteers work one-on-one, serving 15 to 40 hours a week. The volunteers go over schoolwork, reinforce values and often maintain an ongoing, intensive relationship with their young clients for a year or longer.
Volunteers must be 55 or older and able to commit 15 to 40 hours a week in a classroom setting.
Those who meet certain income guidelines receive a small stipend.
Volunteers receive accident and liability insurance and meals while on duty, reimbursement for transportation and monthly training.
Volunteers are needed for the 2011-12 school year for Warren City Schools. For more information, call 330-373-6480, Ext. 227.
''Some come into the program with an attitude, but when you show them attention, they seem to be a little better," Morgan said.
This past school year, Morgan worked with Head Start, helping five youngsters ages 3 to 5 with subjects they were having difficulty in.
"At the beginning of the year, we filled out a form about the children. At the end of the school year, we filled out the same form. We made comparisons, and there was quite an improvement. Some children came into the program bashful and shy and by the end of the year after working with them, they were fine,'' Morgan said.
Morgan said some children last fall could not write their names or the alphabet or count to 10, but by the end of the school year they could accomplish all three.
"If we would have had a program like this when I was in school, it would have helped so many children. I'm trying to help these children and I feel wonderful about it," she said.
Morgan said through the program she gets to know the children on a one-on-one basis.
"I would take my one or two children and go to one section of the room and work with them on writing their names or on the alphabet or counting," Morgan said.
As an added bonus, the program allowed her to get out of the house and keep her faculties intact, she said.
Norma Taylor of Warren, who has been part of the program for four years, said she enjoys being able to give back and help the children.
''A woman told me about being a volunteer for the Stars program, which I tried and enjoyed. When that program ended, I moved to the Foster Grandparents program,'' Taylor said.
She has been involved with working with 4- and 5-year-old pre-kindergarten students at the Head Start program and the reading program at Willard School.
''It's enjoyable giving of yourself to the little children and seeing them learn. They want to learn. Anyone who loves working with children and giving of themselves would enjoy the program,'' Taylor said.
Taylor plans to take part again in the fall at the start of the school year.
JR Chilton of Liberty completed his second year of the program and said he enjoys working with students.
"I feel like I am replacing what I had lost when I was a child. I want to teach the children to do the right thing for the right reasons - because it is the right thing," Chilton said.
''If you don't feel good, the children can really cheer you up. They always have something to tell you and really say funny things" Chilton said.
Chilton works with the preschoolers and also with the teenagers.
He and other program participants help with two programs offered at the United Methodist Community Center called Building Individual Life Lessons (BILL) and Getting Ahead in Life (GAIL), after-school, gender-specific mentoring programs.
"When the teens have a problem or question, I am always willing to help and listen to them,'' he said.
Chilton said the two programs offer help with homework and discussions on topics and problems young people may face in everyday life.
"I tell them if you have a problem, we can talk about it. I tell them every problem is important to listen to," he said.
Chilton said there also is a class that helps youth look at what they may want to do in their future.
"Many kids think that basketball is the only way out. We stress the importance of education," Chilton said.
Chilton said when he was a child, he got into trouble and now tries to encourage children to make the right decisions in their lives,
"Too often what they see on television or the videos is not real life. I hope to share my experiences as -role model when they are having a problem or bad day," he said.
As for preschoolers, Chilton can often be seen helping them learn their shapes and colors.
Chilton said that in the first year, he wasn't quite sure what to expect.
"You learn as you take part," he said.
Both Chilton and Morgan said the parents tell them how appreciative they are for the help given their children.
Holmes said there are 25 Foster Grandparents in Trumbull and 25 in Mahoning County.
''I tell them they need to have some patience,'' Holmes said. ''There are some who are intimidated that they may not remember what the older children are learning.
"Many children don't have the pleasure of having a grandparent around or don't see elderly individuals who can share their wisdom and kindness," Holmes said.
Holmes said she remembers one grandparent who said she did not have a GED, but after participating in the program, she went back to get her GED, which helped build her confidence, she said.
In the fall will be a collaboration with Warren City Schools as Holmes is currently looking for families and volunteers to commit to being part of a program to help students in kindergarten to fourth grades.
Holmes is working with Jill Merolla, the volunteer coordinator with Warren schools to get assistants for each K-4 teacher.
"My job for the fall is to recruit enough volunteers for each K-8 building to help get reading scores up,'' she said.