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Foster grandparent Gladys Everett tutors students at Oak Grove Elementary. (Photo from the Tampa Bay Business Journal and Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay.)
Posted August 23, 2017 | 11:06 AM

Hillsborough County Program Connects Generations

Foster 'grandparents' help children learn

Enita Heyward has a large family: two children of her own, two others she raised, nine grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. And then there are the 100 children at the Hillsborough County Head Start/Early Head Start Center, where she volunteers.

Heyward, a 68-year-old Tampa resident, participates in the Foster Grandparent Program, a collaborative effort between the County and Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay. The program helps children in Head Start and Early Head Start who need individualized attention with life skills and other learning needs.

"I sit down with them and help them write their names, teach them how to count, and learn their ABCs, and if they feel like drawing, I sit down with them to do that, too," says Heyward, who volunteers at the North Tampa Center.

"North Tampa Head Start is a very loving place, with caring people, and the parents and the custodians are so nice," she says. "I work in the classroom with 20 children, but I really have a total of 100, because if there is anything I can do in the other classrooms, I will."

Robin Ingles, director of Marketing and Development for Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay, says the organization has about 120 foster grandparent tutors across the County. Started as a pilot program in Tampa in the beginning, the Foster Grandparent Program now is in its 51st year, Ingles says.

The foster grandparents play a big role in the classroom - working one-on-one with the kids, and providing an intergenerational figure. They also offer much-needed help to teachers.
For seniors such as Heyward, known as "Grandma" at North Tampa Head Start, the Foster Grandparent Program also helps fill a void in retirement. She retired as a school bus driver for Hillsborough County Public Schools in 2012. Her sister also serves as a foster grandparent for Head Start.

"I was sitting around the house one day, and I was bored, and my sister said, 'Here's something that you could do,' " Heyward recalled.
Heyward has volunteered at North Tampa Head Start for four years.

"I greet them with a smile, and they greet me back with a smile and love, and all the kids look for me. I have a bond with the children," Heyward says. "I feel wonderful about being a part of North Tampa. It is really something when you help a child."

For more information on both programs, contact Hillsborough County Head Start/Early Head Start (813) 272-5140, and Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay at (813) 932-5228.

Photo Information: Foster grandparent Gladys Everett tutors students at Oak Grove Elementary. (Photo from the Tampa Bay Business Journal and Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay.)