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Wanna be a 'grandparent'? State program pairs volunteers with children in Austin classrooms

The wall of a classroom is covered in educational posters, like calendars and the alphabet.
Gabriel C. Pérez

Folks over the age of 55 who have time to spare and want to mentor young children can become "foster grandparents" in Travis County.

This week, the county is inviting people to apply to Texas Health and Human Services' Foster Grandparent Volunteer Program. Volunteers, or "grandparents," usually spend about 15 to 40 hours a week assisting children with reading or writing in classrooms. Sometimes, they’ll also sit with children to help them stay focused. Unlike a teacher's aide, these volunteers work one-on-one with the student.

“We set it up so that we partner with schools, child care centers, after-school programs and juvenile justice programs,” Diane Rouda, volunteer services coordinator for the program, said.

The children often have learning disabilities or come from low-income families. Rouda and her team recruit and train volunteers to work primarily with students who have additional needs.

The Travis County schools and child care programs involved in the program identify those children who could benefit from it.

All volunteers go through a background check and multiple hours of training before they’re placed with a child.

Volunteers can also receive nontaxable stipends of $4/hour if they fall within a certain income bracket. They could also have their travel reimbursed.

“Not only are we benefiting the children in the end by having volunteers in the classroom, but we are benefiting the grandparents because they are receiving a stipend for participating in the program,” Rouda said.

Travis County is holding a virtual information session on the program Friday. Find more information here.

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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