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Grandparents, when they unleash their creativity and use their skills and passions, can have a transformative effect on their families.

I set up my first Grandparent Connection School Program at Deerfield High School in 2009. The Deerfield High School grandparent program is still going strong, with 300 grandparents expected to attend the event for senior year students next week. Over the past seven years, the program has moved into a middle school with plans for expansion in 2017, into two Jewish high schools in the Chicagoland area, plus a number of religious schools in Chicago and beyond.

But, the question remains…how can we show that when grandparents enter their grandchild’s school world, it can have a positive, lasting impact across the family and community, bringing families closer together around shared values and improved mental health; providing community support for schools and encouraging positive implicit association with aging.

To that end, I have undertaken a process to create a Theory of Change, that as the basis for an evaluation/outcome management project to assess the feasibility of expanding the Grandparent Connection School Program and develop the business model for that expansion locally and nationally.

Here is our Theory of Change for the Power of establishing Grandparent Connection Programs in secular and religious schools.

If grandparents of tweens and teens successfully connect with their grandchildren’s schools, they will become better informed about their world. When grandparents better understand what their grandchildren are learning at school, including not only subject matter but also the emotional, intellectual and social skills/development that their grandchild experiences as they grow toward young adulthood, they can better engage in meaningful discussions and connections.

Both grandparents and grandchildren will deepen their knowledge of one another’s life stories and values, and grandparents will contribute their compassion, wisdom and support through the various transition points of their grandchildren’s young lives. Additionally, grandchildren and their parents gain positive implicit associations with aging and older adults.

Simultaneously, host schools will gain additional support in the form of enthusiastic volunteers, deeper involvement from school age families and positive influence on the broader community via grandparents’ social networks.

Long term, family units will be enriched, contributing profound and enduring impact on individuals, families and communities.

What grandparent-school programs are in your community?

What do you think? Are we on to something? Do you have examples of successful school grandparent programs in your community? Please share–even programs that did not succeed are good to know about, for informing a success for the future.