Volunteer Steps Up to Support Students, Knits Hearing-Aid Covers with Love  

Fran Grassman

By Poudre School District

Fran Grassman, Poudre School District volunteer, sets a good example. As one who avoids the spotlight and attention, she impacts volunteers, staff, and students in small ways as she serves.

Jennifer Wright, a PSD nurse, and Grassman’s daughter convinced her mother to start serving in PSD about eight years ago. Wright figured this would be a fun way for her mom to get out of the house to meet more people.

Grassman serves at all school levels and volunteers at multiple schools as a hearing screener. The screenings typically take place in the fall and into early spring.

Grassman also assists with both hearing and vision screenings of PSD’s Early Childhood Education students. Grassman helps students to feel comfortable during the screening, guides students to sit down, and assists with putting the headset on the student, which tests their level of hearing.

In PSD, students are screened from kindergarten through ninth grade. This year includes fourth graders because screenings did not occur last year, due to the pandemic. In a typical year, kindergarten through third grade, fifth, seventh, and ninth graders may be screened.  Grassman finds joy in helping people.

“I appreciate getting to meet the young people,” said the retiree, who likes being a part of the school system as a volunteer.

Things that make Grassman stand out are her knitting prowess and crafts, which she makes for family and friends. During breaks during volunteering, she works on her latest creation. Grassman has knitted special hearing aid covers for students’ masks during the pandemic. She also shares her recipes with other volunteers.  Grassman has a servant’s heart. She was only able to volunteer one week during the last school year, but she showed up nonetheless.

“I missed being in the schools and around the students,” she said. She was overjoyed when volunteers were able to go back into schools. “Even though the school activities do not look the same, it was good to get back this year.”

As an older volunteer, Grassman has had a major influence on the newbies.

“She is so friendly and engaging,” said Kathryn Rudd, PSD’s assistant audiologist. “She is our best recruiter for the hearing screening process.”

Grassman has made friends and connections by volunteering. Because of this, and with others who enjoy the process, Rudd is fortunate to have several volunteers who follow her to schools as their schedules allow because they have built friendships.

“She is kind and reliable,” Rudd said of one of her absolute favorite volunteers. Grassman is an advocate for volunteerism. She encourages anyone who is involved with students to try volunteering because it is important for the student’s health and well-being. It is also important to get enough volunteers to help with the screening process. The screening process gives each student every chance to thrive and improve and catch early signs of hearing or vision loss.

Rudd shared that on average 30-50 students are confirmed annually to have permanent hearing loss. And another 100 are flagged for middle-ear issues; this could include ear or wax infections, which are also considered an educational hearing loss.

As the assistant audiologist, Rudd rechecks all students who are referred. For vision screenings, nurses check students who do not pass the vision screening. Upward of 10-12 volunteers are needed at each school site for vision and hearing screenings.

“It would be reassuring to have the full capacity,” said Rudd. “We can always use more volunteers, even if vision and hearing stations are full, we could use someone to man the door, show students where to turn in papers, and walk them to areas.”

“We will never turn volunteers away,” said Mary Beth Bramel, education audiologist at PSD. “We have never had too many volunteers.”

As a screener, you are trained on-site. There is no experience needed. “If you show up, we will train you,” said Bramel.

Visit the Volunteer web page at psdschools.org to learn more.

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