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Students have big hearts for Foster Grandparents
February 13, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - In addition to offering important help in the classroom, Foster Grandparents develop close bonds with their students. Bev Satur is adored by her Geil Elementary first graders (from left) Methius Gonzalez, Braelynn Mick and Kaleigh Morgan.

For more than three decades, Foster Grandparents have helped young students with their schoolwork – while building lasting relationships along the way.

Bev Sauer is one of those Foster Grandparents who has been providing love and help with lessons to young students for the past eight years.

“I was working at the Gering Civic Center as a waitress when we hosted the Foster Grandparents Christmas party,” she said. “Someone told me I should get involved, so I contacted the program and was signed up and trained within two weeks.”

Bev’s first assignment was Roosevelt Elementary in Scottsbluff, where she stayed for two years. And when her grandson attended Geil Elementary in Gering, she moved there.

“I see the kids when they’re only kindergartners and first graders,” she said. “As the years go on, they stay in touch. It’s good to see the kids grow.” And she’s has several experiences where older kids still stop by to see “Grandma Bev.”

When a single teacher can sometimes be overwhelmed with a class of about 25 students, Foster Grandparents provide important assistance, helping the kids with their reading and math assignments.

“Most important, when I first see the kids in the morning, I get all kinds of hugs,” Bev said. “They always share with me if something special happened to them the night before and I give them a high five or a thumbs up.”

“Grandma has really helped us,” said Geil first grader Braelynn Mick. “She’s very kind. She does a lot of work in the back. I think she should have a day off sometime.”

Geil Principal Mary Kay Haun said the Foster Grandparents program was in the Gering schools when she first became a teacher 36 years ago. “One of the neatest things is the relationship the grandmas make with the children,” she said. “Too often, grandparents live far away or they don’t have grandparents and they don’t have that opportunity to make a relationship with a grandparent.”

She added that Foster Grandparents have so much experience and knowledge they can pass along with life-long lessons the kids can learn. They help children not only academically, but also socially.

The Foster Grandparents program is open to income-eligible persons over the age of 55. They work one-on-one with children in schools, daycare centers and Head Start programs.

“The main focus of the Foster Grandparents is to nurture and get a good rapport with the children and help them in learning situations,” said Cathy Schumacker, Foster Grandparents manager for Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska. “In the elementary schools, they often serve as tutors in helping the students to understand what the teacher is trying to relate to them.”
She added that Foster Grandparents build a relationship with the students and can help younger kids develop their social skills and be more interactive.

Currently there are 75 people in the program and Schumacher said they’re looking for more. The program serves Scotts Bluff, Banner, Deuel, Morrill, Cheyenne, Kimball, Garden Keith and Lincoln Counties.

“It’s a really good situation because the schools benefit as well as the children,” Schumacher said. “The grandparents benefit as well because they often want to get out of the house and be active.”

For more information on becoming a Foster Grandparent, call Schumacher at (308) 633-3348.
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