ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) – To take on the role of being a role model and mentor, requires a special individual who will understand the committment and sacrifice.
Foster Grandparents is not your typical “foster parent” agency.
Their kids do not live with them and they are not responsible for feeding them, but they do have one obligation: to commit their time to mentor them.
“Just enjoyment, you know,” Foster Grandparent Ben Tobin said.
Tobin looks forward to fostering high school students at Premier High School, once a week, to merely play chess.
“Chess helps me stay a lot. a way from becoming Alzheimer’s. It fights that for me,” Tobin said.
However, there is more to the fostering than just his self-enjoyment.
“Chess helps your cognitive abilities just like math does. It helps you think logically,” Tobin said. “Logic helps you solve problems in your life.”
This has been his constant for the last three years. He has known Premier High School senior, Michael Ware.
“I come in here and I learn alot from these guys,” senior Michael Ware said. “I learn something new everytime I come in here.”
For the last year, Tobin has taken Ware in and fostered him for just a few hours.
“He’s like a friend, really,” Ware said.
Their friendship has developed into a mentorship.
“I try to give advice. One of my students here I was mentoring was Tyler Carey and he graduated here [in] three years. Rather quickly. he took second place last year in the chess tournament,” Tobin said.
Foster Grandparents stays true to its motto: Share Today and Shape Tomorrow. The state-run agency allows senior citizens to take on meaningful volunteer opportunities that involve the community and the children in them.
“This is a great program and this is a great school. I love it. I come here, it’s like a family,” Foster Grandparent Clinton French said.
French fosters children at Ortiz Elementary School in Abilene. He is cruising through the retirement life and has found himself at this school for the last two and a half years.
‘I get to dance with the kids, sing with the kids, I go to arts and crafts, I draw pictures, and then I get to come to a classroom and work. I love it and retired people should consider doing this,” French said.
French fosters second grade student Maritza Camacho.
“He does math with me. He’s nice and he’s kind,” Camacho said. “I read and then if I have trouble or something, he helps me.”
Since his arrival, the staff has noticed Maritza excelling in her studies, including her very own grandmother!
“She has struggled with reading and having that extra push and having that extra hand in the classroom is doing amazing things for her,” Maritza’s biological grandmother Elizabeth Lozano said.
Lozano is also a teacher’s aide at the elementary. She explained it is a blessing to have the foster grandparents on campus.
“It’s actually pretty neat because I get to know her teacher one-on-one, I get to see everything that she is doing. It’s amazing having these grandparents in these classrooms,” Lozano said.
The school’s partnership with the agency has not only helped the students but the teachers as well.
“I just think it’s a gift we give our kids when it’s not just middle-aged people who they always deal with teachers or the young, but they have the opportunity to visit with and deal with the seasoned people in our lives as well,” Ortiz Elementary Principal Debra Stewart said.
Continuing to push perseverance into their young minds.
“They help that kid develop an internal confidence that helps them be successful in the classroom, but long-term helps them be successful at life,” Principal Stewart said.
Those who are interested in becoming a foster grandparent must be 55 years or older and must devote 15-40 hours a week. The benefits include a small, tax-free stipend and time off.
To reach the Abilene agency call, (325) 795-5703. For more information on Abilene Foster Grandparents, click here. The office can be found at Health and Human Services, Building 4601 South 1st, Suite M, Abilene, Texas 79605.
For information on the entire organization of Senior Corps, click here. Senior Corps has similar agencies like Abilene Foster Grandparents across the state, nationwide and in a few countries overseas. Other cities in Texas can be found here.