Lakota Great-Grandmother Uses Her Maternal Instincts to Soothe Schoolchildren

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Lakota Great-Grandmother Uses Her Maternal Instincts to Soothe Schoolchildren

Valentina Javis, center, with some of her “foster grandchildren” at Crazy Horse School
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#Lakota great-grandmother uses her maternal instincts to soothe schoolchildren. #DailyPointofLight via @PointsofLight
Friday, July 31, 2015 - 9:00am

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Valentina Janis. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or organization as a Point of Light.

Every school day for more than a decade, Valentina Janis has boarded a school bus shortly after dawn and arrived at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, South Dakota, around 7:15. The 72-year-old sits at breakfast with the students – nearly all of whom are, as is she, Lakota – and waits patiently for the teachers.

Janis has a special role at the school. As a “foster grandmother,” she’s always ready with a sympathetic ear and a big hug.

“I can tell when some of the little kids need help,” she says. “They come in crying or they start fighting with other kids. You just have to care enough to step in and do something, say something. Eventually they open up and I think they respond to me because I’m outside of the family.”

Recently, she and her husband, Leonard, who volunteers as a foster grandfather – usually checking in on the older middle school and high school students – worked together with the school’s principal to calm down a 12-year-old girl who said she was feeling suicidal.

“God gave us children to love,” says Janis. “When they’re in a dark place, you must tell them that you care and you’re there for them.”

Read the rest of the story on the Points of Light blog.


Keywords: Volunteerism & Community Engagement | Awards & Recognition | Daily Point of Light Award | Education | Lakota | Native American culture | Points of Light | foster grandparent