Last Tuesday, on September 12th, Casady upper division students hosted volunteer visits at several schools and assisted living centers. Freshman, sophomore, and junior students served as reading mentors and facilitated reading advancement exercises at several schools, where an estimated 80-100% of their students cannot afford books at home. The senior class visited Lionwood, Brookdale, and Tuscany assisted living homes. Selected senior students also worked with patients in the Brookdale memory care wing.
At each home, student groups entertained residents with board games, exercise classes, and even Wii video games, at Lionwood. However, a majority of the senior class reflected that conversing with each individual and learning about their stories and opinions felt most rewarding.
In the digital world, text messages and video chats have devalued the virtue of face-to-face connection and communication. Many students recognized the importance of this lost art while visiting with residents. One man that Claire Richardson (‘19) visited in the Brookdale memory care unit had struggled with stepping out of his shell for quite some time. After giving him company and a listening ear, Richardson remarked that it was “amazing” to watch him stretch a grin across his face, while playing catch with her peers.
Simply reaching out to these individuals warmed many of their hearts and gifted the students with new friends. Hope Bryer-Ash (‘19) reflected that “even sitting with them, talking, or doing an activity together, [made] their day brighter!” The experience reaffirmed to the senior class just how easily one can help others, a lesson that many can carry with them into their next chapter away from our Casady campus.
Walking out of each center, many students grew sad as they realized they must leave their new companions and enter the racing world of school, competitive sports, music, social media, and college applications. All of which do not leave much room for the gift of spontaneous relationships, such as the ones they had to leave that day. “I was surprised by how willing everyone was to talk about their lives,” said Richardson.
Students felt inspired by the unguarded way most residents approached them and wanted to get involved. Preston Parsons (‘19) connected to the residents and their desire “to play games and [remain] active.” At Lionwood, one woman offered students to challenge her position as Wii bowling champion, and ended the day victorious against all her student opponents.
However, the residential champion did not stand out amongst the other men and women residing at Lionwood. Ali Ambrose (‘19) confessed she “got annihilated in checkers at least three times.” Students loved seeing the residents’ vibrant personalities shine through and pushed themselves to engage candidly, without the caution so many of us retain while in high school.
After breaking these boundaries, students allowed themselves to absorb all the knowledge and lessons that residents had to offer. Both Richardson and Ambrose found deeper connections to the residents that shared advice from their past experiences to bolster the girls’ futures. None of the lessons were “new concepts, but [the resident] presented them as someone who had lived them and strongly believed in them, which is hard to find,” Ambrose admitted. Though seniors intended to serve residents at Lionwood, Brookdale, and Tuscany, the residents truly gifted them with insight, compassion, and a few laughs!