Foster Grandparents: Older Adults and Students Help Each Other Succeed

Foster Grandparents Blog Graphic Update 1 19 2018
 “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”  – Denzel Washington

When Gail began tutoring students at Sibley Elementary through Senior Neighbors’ Foster Grandparents: Traveling Grannies and Grandpas (Foster Grandparents) program, she was looking for a worthwhile way to spend her time.

“Tutoring makes me much happier. It’s rewarding to watch the progress students make,” Gail said. “The children are wonderful.  They really connect and want to succeed.”

Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently awarded Senior Neighbors a grant to provide one-on-one tutoring for students at three Challenge Scholars schools through the Foster Grandparents program.

People over the age of 55 serve as mentors and tutors to students who may be struggling. The tutors have a direct impact cultivating a college-going culture and academic success at Harrison Park, Sibley and Stocking Elementary Schools.

Each mentor serves fifteen or more hours each week and is paired with around eight children. They meet with each student for 30 minutes about three times each week. In exchange, they receive a small stipend, offering older adults an opportunity to supplement their income.

“I love children, they are like little sponges in their desire to learn,” said Sharon, a volunteer at Stocking Elementary. “My favorite part of volunteering is seeing students’ progress. It’s fulfilling and exciting to know I’m playing a part in helping students feel comfortable.”

Mentors and tutors are primarily recruited from within neighborhoods in which students live. This helps build stronger community ties for both the children and older adults. When students can identify with their mentors, it also increases mentors’ effectiveness as role models.

“The intergenerational approach has proven to be beneficial to both older adults and the young people they serve,” said Kate Luckert Schmid, vice president of program at Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Historically, similar programs across the country have increased academic success for 85 percent of mentored students. Volunteering also profoundly increases mentors’ reported physical activity, social engagement and well-being.

Get Involved

Interested in volunteering? Visit Senior Neighbors’ website to learn more about getting involved.

This grant was made possible by the Fund for Community Good. If you would like to donate to support programs like this for years to come, you may give online at