Foster grandparents program expanding in Osceola County schools

By Stephanie Bechara, Osceola County Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 6:56 PM EDT

More than half of the kids in the Osceola County School District are not academically prepared for their first day of elementary school. That is why the Foster Grandparent program, which provides one-on-one interaction with kids, is hoping to expand to Kissimmee.

  • Foster grandparents program provides one-on-one interaction with kids
  • Opening a new chapter in Kissimmee, planning a satellite office

One of the volunteers for the program, 75-year-old Mary Barry, believes she has discovered the Fountain of Youth.

“Young people will make you young,” Barry said. She came across it when she became a foster grandparent at Kissimmee Elementary School. “I don't get paid for what I do, but I do get paid in hugs and kisses,” she said.

This is a program led by Volunteers For Community Impact in counties all over Central Florida. They’re trying to open a new chapter in Osceola County. This non-profit wants to open a satellite office in Kissimmee to provide more orientations and trainings for volunteers.

“This is life to them. They live alone... their grandchildren aren't near them and aren't able to go out and visit them as much. So this gives them something to look forward to everyday,” said Beatrice Puebla, the volunteer coordinator of Volunteers For Community Impact. “The children make progress that also lifts their self-esteem.”

Barry has volunteered at Kissimmee Elementary for 12 years and recently decided to become a foster grandparent. An action she hopes motivates other seniors like herself to get involved, not only to teach the young how to read but to have a purpose and relive the days they walked the halls of grade school along the way.

“They’re doing me a service. They give me a reason to get up, they give me a reason to come to school, they give me a reason to keep going,” Barry said.

Volunteers For Community Impact is currently in the process of recruiting volunteers for Osceola County. For more information, visit the Volunteers for Community Impact website.