Eric Langton Elementary is partnering with seniors in the community for a Grand Buddies mentorship program.
Program organizers and senior volunteers met at the elementary school on Tuesday afternoon in Maple Ridge during an informal meet-and-greet to discuss an expansion plan and to ponder how to recruit new buddies.
“The program has been around for over 10 years, once it gets rolling again, the teachers will request a grand buddy if they find a student who is struggling with being in the classroom,” said Heather Treleaven, with the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows Katzie, Seniors Network.
A shift in programs at the school in the past meant Grand Buddies wasn’t as active in the community as they would have liked, according to Treleaven.
“[We’re] still operating, but on a very small basis for the past maybe two years,” she said.
But that’s all changing now as the group prepares to expand and is looking to recruit around 15 volunteers who are interested in mentoring a student.
Becci Olson, a child care worker at Eric Langton, is preparing to relaunch the program next week.
“[The program looks] at matching young students with grandparent-type figures either in a one-on-one or group situation, and the matching is primarily based on interest,” she said.
Beatty Giesinger, 76, as been mentoring students in the program since it’s inception.
“For us, I think it gives us connection with grandchildren,” she said. “I think [for] most of us, our grandchildren have grown up and they don’t live here anymore and to be able to sit down and tell a child a story is an experience.”
Giesinger and fellow grand buddy Mary Jane McLellan, 74, have had students they’ve mentored in the past from kindergarten right through to their teens.
“It fills a huge gap in a grandma or a grandpa,” Giesinger added.
The two veterans in the program were at the meet-and-greet to welcome new recruits John Simms, 73, and Maryam Nabipoor, 42.
Treleaven said the program was the result of feedback she received years ago.
“Back in 2009, we had a community consultation and seniors said what they would like to see is more inter-generational opportunities – [a] chance to share their knowledge and experience with younger generations,” she said.
“Because of the success of this program we also constructed the inter-generational garden in partnership between the Seniors Network and the schools Eric Langton and St. Pats and we have about 10 to 15 senior volunteers mentoring students in the garden as well,” Treleaven added, as she reminded the mentors they also had access to the garden with their buddy.
For more information about the program or to volunteer as a grand buddy contact Heather at 604-786-7404 or by email at email@example.com, or Becci at 604-463-3810. Applicants are required to complete a criminal record check.