On a sunny Saturday in August, 19-year-old Micah Ortiz stood in the gardens across from the Buttonwood Park Warming House telling the group gathered there how his grandmother – his Nana – raised him and helped him to succeed.

Ortiz was there to accept a scholarship from Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Inc. to continue his education at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. With him was his grandmother, Cheryl Cruz.

“Growing up I wasn’t the greatest kid,” Ortiz said. “I never felt like I connected with anyone.”

But through that process, he said, Cruz supported him, pushed him to strive for more, and helped him accept himself. “I learned that just because I’m different, it doesn’t define who I am,” he said.

Ortiz was one of two scholarship recipients of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Inc.’s annual scholarship awards. The organization exists to help grandparents who become the primary caretakers for their grandchildren, offering a monthly support group at the main New Bedford Public Library. Kayla Collazo, who is attending Bristol Community College, also received a scholarship.

In her remarks, GRG Scholarship Committee Co-chair Latisha Silva said some grandparents struggle when taking on the role of parent because of differences in how children today learn, grow, and behave.

“They’re not used to the new generation and the way the world has changed,” Silva said. “So some of it is a shock to them.”
Founded and led by President Brenda Grace, GRG Inc. tries to help by offering support and, when needed, items like backpacks, school supplies, and help with holiday dinners.

“These are all the things they do need, and they sometimes have trouble getting,” Silva said.

To-date GRG Inc. has given out $11,500 in scholarships to 14 recipients including the two awardees from this year, according to Treasurer Renay Ribeiro.

Cruz thanked GRG Inc. and suggested she’d like to become a GRG volunteer to pass on what she’s received to other grandparents.

“I’m very happy to have found this group. I want to be a part of it even though he has grown,” she said, gesturing to her grandson. “If I can help another grandparent with their grandchild, I’m more than happy to do it.”

“There’s a whole bunch of us out there and it’s a challenge,” Cruz continued. “Especially now that the world has changed so drastically.”

GRG’s monthly support group meets at New Bedford Public Library, 613 Pleasant St. in New Bedford, on the third Tuesday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m.