Foster grandparents help students reach goals

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A group of seniors is helping students reach their educational goals.

JoAnn Thomas, 69, is a retired banker, but she's known as Grandma to kindergartners at Mendenhall Elementary School in Tampa.

Thomas volunteers with the Foster Grandparent Program, a local volunteer group that supports kids in their education. 

"I love working with the children. I love kids," JoAnn said.

They tutor and mentor elementary school students who are having problems learning in the classroom.

"I help them with their reading. I help them with their alphabet, their numbers, sign on the computer in the morning," JoAnn explained.

Foster grandparenting started 52 years ago and has helped more than 3,000 students.

Tammy Criollo with Seniors in Service says, "It's a perfect marriage. We have retirees who want to give back and have love and care and skills to teach children to read."
The foster grandparents are also an invaluable resource for teachers.

"She sits with them at lunch she just takes care of them in all sorts of ways," Michele Benken a teacher at the school said.
And they're creating a special bond with lasting memories.

"It just lights up my day. I love it," JoAnn said.

Seniors must be 55 years old to volunteer as foster grandparents. For more information or to sign up, visit