And They’re Off!
Florence, a Foster Grandparent Program participant, celebrated Kentucky Derby Day with her “foster grandchildren” – a second grade class at John Quincy Adams Elementary School in Deer Park. Florence read “Seabiscuit, The Wonder Horse” and discussed the history of the Kentucky Derby over Zoom with the children, many of whom wore wide-brimmed hats, dresses and suits for the occasion. The children asked Florence questions, such as “Why do people need to wear a hat to the Kentucky Derby?”
Normally, Florence and the other Foster Grandparents would spend significant amounts of time in classrooms throughout the region. But because of the pandemic, “we had to scramble as a team to figure out how we could keep these volunteers engaged in this work that means so much to them,” says Jessica Acevedo, Program Manager for the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Program.
The team developed the Special Projects Program, in which the foster grandparents provide support in various ways to the teachers and students remotely, as well as the Penpal Program, in which the foster grandparents and children write letters to each other. The latter activity “keeps the older adults engaged while helping students with their reading and handwriting skills and connecting them in a supportive, socially distant way to a caring and loving person who can provide the social-emotional support they need through a fun activity,” Acevedo says.
A video showing Florence’s interactions with the children during the Kentucky Derby event was created to highlight the Special Projects and Penpal programs. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, Florence and the children also discussed the letters they had received from each other.