Samantha and Sybil: Foster Grandparent program brings generations together
In fall of 2021, Samantha Yvzellez was starting her first year as a teacher, ready but nervous to invest in her first grade class. Meanwhile, Sybil Sloan had recently moved from her hometown of Woodstock to live with her daughter in the Athens area. Although Sloan enjoyed being closer to family, she felt a little lonely and lost when she first made the move. So, she set two goals for herself. First: get involved with a local senior center and begin rebuilding her community. Second: become a Foster Grandparent.
Because Sloan’s daughter is a special education teacher in the Athen’s area, naturally, she planned to be a Foster Grandparent at her daughter’s school. However, after learning more about the program and trying to find the best fit, Sloan was placed at Fowler Drive Elementary School. There she was paired with Yvzellez.
“As a first year teacher, having her to talk to really helped me to gain more confidence in myself and the decisions that I was making for my class. She had experience with the education world herself and worked in a PreK class for a long time. So, it was really nice to get to hear her stories and learn from her,” said Yvellez.
Originally, Sloan had planned to only stay a year and then transfer to her daughter’s school. But she soon realized she and Yvzellez were a good fit.
“Even though I don’t have a teaching degree, I am still able to help the students and be hands-on. I feel like I am giving them little extra education boosts alongside Ms.Yvellez’ teaching. I get to support them with things that they really need extra help with like reading. You can do a lot without a degree if you have the patience and kindness to work with the kids,” said Sloan.
As partners, Yvellez and Sloan brought out strengths in each other and better supported the class together.
“Ms. Sloan brought a lot more positivity to the room. My kids really enjoyed whenever she came because she made a point to take the time to get to know them as individuals and interact with not only the two students that she was assigned to help but also all of of my kids,” said Yvellez. “It was really nice to see that they could have another relationship with another trusted adult because it takes more than just me to help them grow.”
Through the Foster Grandparent program, Sloan built a community and a routine while also giving back to the community in the process.
“Helping out in Ms. Yvellez’ class really made my move to Athens a lot easier. Having something outside of the house to focus on, that makes me feel good. I am happier and healthier because of my time in her classroom,” said Sloan.
As both Sloan and Yvellez would say, the Foster Grandparent program is more than a volunteer program. It is a bridge between generations.
“I definitely think other teachers should participate in the Foster Grandparent program because I only see it as beneficial. It brings in another trusted person to give your kids support. Anywhere we can give kids more support or attention in the classroom, we should. It’s always good for them,” said Yvellez.
About The Foster Grandparent Program
Powered by AmeriCorps, the Foster Grandparent program connects older adults with children who may benefit from extra support. Foster Grandparent volunteers serve five to 40 hours each week in schools, Head Start programs, and daycare centers where they mentor, tutor and provide one-on-one support. The program encourages older adults like Sloan to step in as a role model, providing additional comfort and love and encouraging children towards academic progression. To learn more, please visit accaging.org/volunteers/americorpsseniors/foster-grandparent-program.