I suspect that Mimi and Nana were formerly two "gorgeous gals". Still physically beautiful, they are now two energetic "grandmas" that walk the halls of Fern Bluff Elementary in Round Rock, Texas because of a program called Foster Grandparents, a part of Texas Senior Corp. The program was founded in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This week I chased them down and they were willing to give CW a few minutes of their time as I probed them about their lives and motivation for working with children.
CW: What made you want to be a Foster Grandparent?
Mimi, aka, Maryann Hargis: I'm a former educator, have seven grandchildren and still enjoy being with little ones.So many children don't have grandparents close by and I get to build relationships with those kids.
Nana, also known as Palley Kramer: Education moves fast. It's changed so much since my kids were in school. This is my opportunity to "catch up." I get to see for myself what's going on in education. I want to find out for myself if children are learning or not.
CW: What do you want to accomplish?
Mimi: Some children I work with are considered at risk students and I want to see those kids "make it."
Nana: I want children to realize the importance of an education. Nowadays, there so much fun in learning because of tools that teachers have. I want them to enjoy their education.
Mimi: I also like getting to know the teachers and making their job easier.
CW: How do you connect with children?
Mimi: I tell them stories of my own grandchildren and sometimes I'll walk in and they ask,"How's Wyatt?"
Nana: I do my best to encourage, encourage, encourage.
CW: What have you learned since you became a Foster Grandparent?
Nana: I'm also being educated mentally, socially and I'm learning new things about math. My life has been awakened. It's disappointing to see a child that is uninterested in school but I'm learning about the children's emotional ups and downs.
Mimi: I can make a difference. I've started working with a recent immigrant from Asia. Imagine what it's like to come into a new country and culture and I'm the person she trusts and talks to here in school. I'm the one she's most connected with.
More than anything I want kids to know,"Be natural, be honest, be truthful."
Foster grandparents must meet certain requirements, including a criminal background check.To learn more about the history of national service, go to http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/role_impact/history_timeline.asp