Seniors mentor local children through Grand Pals Program

Published 02/01/2014


SPRING, Texas -- Sometimes, all it takes to make a difference in someone’s life is time. A couple of hours spent with a child who may not have an influential adult in his or her life can make a noticeable transformation by positively impacting emotional well-being and behavior. Eleven seniors from The Village at Gleannloch Farms are spending their time as mentors to kids at Frank Elementary School. The Grand Pals program brightens the lives of everyone involved. Every Wednesday, the Grand Pals travel to the school to meet one-on-one with their assigned students to help them with homework, talk and play games.

“I see the young people of today as the adults of tomorrow, so any type of stable atmosphere older adults can instill on these students is helpful,” said 79-year-old Peggy Runnels, resident at The Village at Gleannloch Farms. “I was a school teacher for 23 years and enjoy mentoring these kids. I have a passion for children and education, and feel like my skills can be of great use to this program.”

She and the other volunteers treat the kids just like grandchildren and their “pals” return the same affection. The Village at Gleannloch Farms residents spend time going through homework folders, listening and offering moral support and encouragement. They are able to see the same student each week which allows for them to build relationships.

“Each week there is time for us to visit and catch up,” said Runnels. “I found there is some time for advice like how to get along with someone on the bus or how to handle bullies. I enjoy knowing that these little talks have a positive influence on their behavior.”

Another resident, 86-year-old Roy Van Nostrand, encourages the public to focus on the positive things happening in school today, like the Grand Pals program. Van Nostrand enjoys sharing a word-of-the-day to broaden the student’s vocabulary and overall knowledge. His pal picks a word that looks familiar to him—like contentious or persnickety—and Van Nostrand encourages him to use the word during that week. The next week, he asks his pal how he used it, and then they learn another word.

“We go over homework first and I help with anything he may have questions about,” said Van Nostrand. “This week, it was fractions. Then, he teaches me a new game and we talk. Once you establish a bond and they realize you are a real person, it is easier for the student to warm up to you. I enjoy sharing logical thinking with them, and sometimes we talk through issues they may be having at school with their friends. I encourage my pal that knowledge is a good thing. Many children are looked down on and called a nerd if they have knowledge. I reinforce the goodness of knowledge through my personal experiences.”

“The kids look forward to seeing their Grand Pal each week,” said Dr. Joy Quandahl, counselor at Frank Elementary. “The one-on-one time with students has brought out issues that their teachers may not have realized in a larger class-setting. One student needed glasses and the student’s Grand Pal was the one who noticed that first. At Frank Elementary, we believe in educating the whole child—and that involves relationships. Grand Pals provides a great partnership to help these students reach their full potential.”

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