COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Retirement can be a wonderful thing. But helping others is even better.

And there’s no better group to help than children and teachers in our community. Thanks to a program within Columbus City Schools, you can do just, and make a difference in the lives of students and seniors.

“This is wonderful. I feel like a rockstar when I come at the school.”

Those are the words of Paula Brown. Eleven years ago, she retired from her job with the state of Ohio.

But instead of sitting at home, she decided to volunteer as a foster grandparent at Leawood Elementary School.

 “I always had a love for children and they seem to love me,” said Brown. “I’m not bragging but I have a good relationship with the kids usually. I can be on their level. I love to teach them.” 

And so she does. Monday through Friday during the school day. She is one of 66 seniors serving more than 300 students in Columbus City Schools.

“They love them. I mean they’re always going to hug them and they call them grandma,” said Leawood principal Maria Malik. “A lot of times they’ll called them grandma and I’ll use their last name or just called and grandma. So to them it’s just another person in the classroom that they can count on it especially if they’re having some kind of social or emotional problem. It really helps to have that extra emotional support.” 

“It’s wonderful. She’s fantastic. My grandparent makes my life so much easier because she’s here,” said third grade teacher Brandon Kuhn. “If we have students who are struggling with work, she can meet with them. She can help students level up with reading practice, some test taking strategies. She just makes my life so much easier.”

The foster grandparent program has been around for more than 65 years and is now run by Catholic Social Services. The program is doing more than helping reading and math scores in the classroom. It’s having a positive impact on the seniors as well.

“I’ve heard stories that blood pressure’s have gone down, they are excited to get up and come in the morning, and it makes them feel like they have something more to offer because they are giving back and they are being utilized,” said Tameko Brown, director of the foster grandparent program.

“We engage them through the entire environment of the school,” said Malik. “So they’re not just a grandparent that’s in the class. They’re part of our family.”

For Brown, she can’t imagine doing anything else now with her time. 

“It’s so worth it and the kids need it.”

If you are interested in learning more about the program, visit Catholic Social Services or call 614-857-1246.