Helping At-Risk 5th and 6th Graders

Sally Custer became a Foster Grandparent in 1999 and has never looked back. She serves at-risk 5th and 6th grade students who benefit from one-on-one attention. All her efforts are focused on helping the children grow socially, emotionally, and academically. Sally's influence is felt both in the classroom and other aspects of academic life.

For instance, Sally initiated and now organizes the annual Veterans Day Program. She invites veterans to come and speak to the children about their experiences, underscoring the importance of individual service. Each grade sings songs pertaining to a branch of the armed services. The students make thank you cards and put on a mini-military show for the audience. Many of the children Sally works with are involved in this project, and they feel ownership and pride from participating in a program so well-received by the school and larger community.

Sally also organizes and encourages students to partake in school food drives. Under her direction last year, the middle school collected 450 pounds of food and $283 for the food shelf. In addition, Sally has encouraged students to make scarves and hats and to donate hair for wigs made for children in need.

Sally enjoys supporting her students by attending band concerts and sporting events. At high school basketball games, she cheers for the students she once taught. Every year, there is a basketball game where the top ten high school seniors give a rose to a special person who has encouraged or inspired them. Generally, the roses go to parents or family members, but one year a senior walked into the crowd and handed the rose to "Grandma Sally." In middle school, this student had been “at-risk” and needed Sally's special attention. He grew to be one of the top 10 students academically at his high school!

Previous students of hers seek out Sally at school, and current students can always be found clustered around her. Many problems are averted altogether or solved more easily because of her influence on the kids. Becky Rebel, one of the teachers Sally has worked with, appreciates how indispensable she is. “Her patience, enthusiasm and positive outlook go a long way with the students and staff at Annandale Middle School."

-Sally Custer