HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Four days a week, for four years now, Classie Sanders has been quietly moving through a second-grade classroom at Hartford’s M.D. Fox Elementary School.
“I do whatever the teacher asks me to do,” she said.
The 72-year-old is part of the Foster Grandparent Program at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut. With the program, she and other volunteers go into schools or early learning centers to provide wisdom and love.
The kids call her ‘Grandma C’.
“At the first grade, she helped me to do words,” said 7-year-old Yaniel.
“We do work with her, sometimes we can play with her at recess,” added 7-year-old Kataleya.
“I believe my whole life’s journey has led me to this point,” said Sanders.
This veteran, who served with the Connecticut Army National Guard, worked at an airline for seven years in international reservations.
“We have a multi-cultural classroom, on my phone I have a translator, we have students that speak Turkish, we have students that speak Brazilian, Portuguese,” she said. “So I’m learning, too.”
“There’s a sense of comfort, familiarity,” noted Principal Kevin Geissler.
About 10 senior citizens in the program volunteer regularly throughout the school.
“They’re one of the staff and the fabric of the building when they walk in in the morning, greeting everyone, saying, ‘Hello.’ It’s wonderful,” Geissler said.
There’s no doubt, it’s beneficial for the volunteers too.
“It gives grandmas, and grandpas, I have grandpas, a sense of purpose, to wake up every morning, get dressed, come in, not only connect with kids but other staff,” said Jeannette Mendez of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut.
Recently, Sanders was honored as Foster Grandparent of the Year.
“I was very humbled, very surprised,” she recalled.
Every day, she aims to give the children what they need to succeed.
“Love, caring, patience, consideration, understanding,” she said. “I‘m grateful I have the opportunity to do that.”
The foster grandparents get a small stipend to help with expenses.
Click here to learn more about the program.