Gainesville — Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, fairy godmothers and protectors to Sleeping Beauty, have nothing on the three foster grandparents at Edison Elementary who give love and wisdom to the kindergartners and first graders at the school, many who have never experienced this kind of support before.
The three foster grandparents working part-time at Edison include Sharon “Grandma” Fugett, Ruby “BB” Brackeen and Mary Alice “Meemaw” Jordan.
“I love working with these kids,” Fugett said, now in her second year in the program. “We get to give these kids a lot of one on one time and work with them on their math and reading. We do whatever it takes to help the teachers to the best of our abilities.”
“We also get to hug them and they get to hug us,” Jordan chimed in. “You will laugh your head off at some of their stories but many will also break your heart.”
It is so gratifying to know that we are helping these kids in some way.
The grandma with the most tenure of the three is Ruby Brackeen, affectionately nicknamed “BB.”
“I have enjoyed almost 11 years as a foster grandparent,” Brackeen said. “It is more rewarding to me than the money I receive.”
“It can be very lonesome at home without anything to look forward to,” Brackeen continued. “Here, I am surrounded by children and I have responsibility to them. It keeps me going.”
The foster grandparent program is part of an initiative that was set up by the Texas Council of Governments (TCOG) as a program for persons 55 years of age or older who meet certain income eligibility requirements and who can provide 15 to 40 hours per week to at-risk children and youth.
According to the TCOG website, foster grandparents receive a tax-free stipend and supplemental insurance affective while serving. Foster grandparents serve as tutors, mentors for children in public settings such as schools, day care centers and community facilities. Special training and recognition events are held annually.
The three Edison grandmas are not only passionate about their kids but are adamant that parents should remember that as a parent, they are a child’s first teacher.
“Parents need to stay more involved with their children’s lives,” Brackeen encouraged. “Their children begin learning by observing them and it is important for parents to remember that.”
“When some of our students see us outside of school, they coming running up to hug us,” Jordan said. “It is so gratifying to know that we are helping these kids in some way.”
“It’s all about love and trust,” Fugett said. “We encourage them with positive reinforcement and they begin to believe in themselves.”
Edison principal Sharon Norwood is confident about the success of the program and what the grandparents mean to the young children.
“The foster grandparent program is a systematic approach to allow mature adults who have time and talent to interact with small children who can benefit from their time and talents,” Norwood said. “During the time I have been at Edison we have been fortunate enough to have 3 foster grandparents on our campus.”
“They are such a blessing to the students and the teachers with whom they assist,” Norwood continued. “The students love them and we all consider them as members of our staff.”
Norwood said that the Edison grandmas are some of the hardest working ladies she has ever encountered.
“Their dedication and commitment to our students is evident by the fact that even during the worst of the cold weather, if we were having school, these ladies were here.”
“I hope I am blessed with half of the energy they have when I get to be their age,” Norwood quipped. “On second thought, I’d like to have that much energy now!”
For more information on this program, future grandparent want-to-bes are encouraged to contact TCOG at (903) 813-3574.