Grandma Sally: 20 years as a foster grandparent to Westby school’s children in need

County By County

Thousands of hours of community service recognized by the Governor's Service Award

WESTBY, Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – In tonight’s County by County Alex Loroff tells us the story of Grandma Sally: a Westby woman who has put in thousands of hours helping students for the past twenty years, who now has some hardware to commemorate her efforts.

For nearly twenty years, students at Westby Elementary School have come to know Sally Vyvyan as Grandma Sally, even if she’s not actually their grandmother. Sally was working in childcare in Florida when she learned about the foster grandparent program.

Upon returning to Wisconsin, Sally connected with the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program, becoming a foster grandparent in 2002. Sally began working with students at Westby Elementary, where her grandchildren went at the time, and provides a helping hand for those who require emotional support.

“I’m here to just give confidence and support to kids that need a little bit extra attention,” said Sally Vyvyan, “they just a little extra push to keep up their interest, to build their self-esteem, to make them aware that they’re cared about, that they’re loved, and they have someone they can feel safe with.”

Sally was welcomed with open arms at Westby Elementary, and with no family in the area, she considers the staff her sons and daughters.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place to be, this is the most family-oriented school I’ve ever been in,” said Vyvyan. Sally has provided at least 15,000 hours of service since 2002, typically helping between ten and fifteen students each year. She says it has been a very rewarding experience to be part of their academic journey, and to make an impact on their lives.

“Watching them from 4k preschool, graduate high school, some of them went off to college of course, but still if they’re in the area and they see me they still acknowledge me, which is just unbelievable,” said Vyvyan.

As a result of that impact, Sally was recognized this year with a Governor’s Service Award, joining eight other individuals and five organizations in Madison on August 4th.

“I know so many people do so many wonderful things and to be chosen out of, I don’t know how many people, it was gratifying because it’s like a reward for my school, for my kids, for the community,” said Vyvyan.

The Governor’s Service Awards are designed to honor people who have made significant impacts to their communities through their service efforts.

“Your service, and the service of all honorees we’re recognizing today exemplifies our shared Wisconsin values of empathy, compassion, service, and taking care of our neighbors,” said Governor Tony Evers.

Sally says she’s grateful to have received the award, but the greatest reward she can have is watching her students achieve their goals and grow throughout their lives.

“You helped them get there, in a small way maybe, but at least you know you did it too,” said Vyvyan. “You did your part, and it just gives you such a fulfilling feeling to know that you can say he got through okay.”

Sally will be back in the classroom after the first month of school, and she can’t wait to help another group of students as she approaches twenty years at Westby Elementary.

For County by County, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

Sally has worked with almost every classroom through the third grade at Westby Elementary.
Her students have had a success rate of over 90% in achieving the goals set by the school since 2017.

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