Foster Grandparent Program up at La Promesa

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After seven years, La Promesa Elementary School will have grandmas and grandpas volunteering in classrooms to help students succeed academically.

La Promesa received a volunteer from the Socorro Foster Grandparent Program this year to assist three students, and may have another on the way, said Patricia Moya, program director.

"For my volunteers, they feel good knowing that they are able to help a child succeed," Moya said.

La Promesa Principal Joanne Silva said she's thrilled to have grandparents volunteer on campus who can help students in ways that sometimes teachers can't.

"The foster grandparents have a wealth of knowledge, stories and advice to give the kids," Silva said. "Elders can contribute so much to children … It's an additional support for the kids."

The Belen Board of Education approved a memorandum of understanding between La Promesa and the program at their meeting on Oct. 11.

La Promesa was receiving volunteers from the Valencia County Foster Grandparent Program, but they had a hard time supplying the school with regular volunteers, said Lisa M. Valencia, program director.

"Unfortunately, with several recruitment efforts, we were unable to place a volunteer at that site due to the location. We try to place volunteers at the sites near their homes," Valencia said.

The Valencia County program also shuttles volunteers, who don't have their own vehicle, to Gil Sanchez Elementary School in Jarales from Los Lunas, where their office is located.

Since the shuttle doesn't reach La Promesa, which is located in northern Socorro County, volunteers would have to drive up to 30 miles to get there, Moya said.

Moya started looking into getting volunteers at La Promesa last year because she thought it was a part of the area the Socorro program serves.

The Socorro program took over sponsorship of La Promesa in July, Moya said.

"I knew that there were volunteers out there, but I had to find them and that was one of my goals," she said.

The program, established in 1999, has volunteers stationed throughout Socorro County, including at San Antonio Elementary School, Parkview Elementary School and Socorro Youth Center, Inc.

To receive services, teachers complete academic assessments of students at the beginning of the school year to determine if a student is in need of extra academic help. A group of two to three students is assigned to work with grandparents, over the age of 55, in the student's classroom during school hours.

Volunteers can tutor students on anything from school subjects to understanding English, Moya said.

"It could be anything from teaching them how to spell their name, math or social studies," she said. "The grandmas monitor the student's progress through the school year."

Teachers report that participation in the program makes students more willing to learn and pick up lessons in class, Moya said.

"Quite a bit of them advance from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," she said. "And teachers feel comfortable with (students) going on to the next grade."

Volunteers are mandated to complete monthly training from community educators on areas, such as how to speak to students and how to react to specific situations, Moya said.

Grandparents are reimbursed for their time with a biweekly stipend and mileage to and from their work station.


Contact Abigail R. Ortiz