Essex senior citizens were in for a treat last week, one that extended beyond a scrumptious buffet lunch.
On October 27 and 28, about 150 students at the Center for Technology, Essex showed their gratitude to the elder generation by hosting Community Appreciation Days. In the eighth week of the school year, the students put their acquired skills to use while giving back to the community, school guidance counselor Charles Brady said.
People aged 60 and over spent the day getting pampered and learning from the students. About 80 seniors participated each day.
While some seniors made their way to the cosmetology classrooms to get manicures and haircuts, others could be found in the animation computer lab. This is where Pat, a senior citizen, was getting an old picture of her grandparents restored.
“There’s only one other picture that my family has of them,” she said. “My grandparents died when I was quite young so it means a lot to me.”
CTE student Soren Sandblom was one of about eight students to help Pat restore her picture.
“It’s a way for them to relive their own memory,” Soren explained. “Instead of looking at old dusty photos, this gives them a better remembrance.”
Once Soren scanned the picture into the computer system, he uploaded and emailed it to a group of students, all at individual computers. Each teenager spent time restoring the picture. In the end, their teacher chose which one would be emailed to Pat.
“It gives [the students] a chance to work with a different clientele,” Brady said, noting it’s beneficial for the students to perform skills, such as testing blood pressure, on someone other than a fellow classmate.
Up until this year, the event was coined as Community Service Days. In its 19th year, they decided to make a switch.
“It’s not service to us, because it’s stuff we like to do,” Brady said, adding it’s important to teach students to show appreciation for their community.
Back in the cosmetology classroom, Peg Verge patiently waited her turn for a manicure. Verge, almost 94, isn’t new to the event.
Year after year, she looks forward to “seeing smiling people and smiling faces,” she said. “It means a lot.”
Hannah LaBounty, a health informatics student, was assigned as Verge’s guide for the day. Verge’s daughter also tagged along and took advantage of the services at hand.
Looking forward to a career in the health care industry, Hannah said she was happy to see Verge “having a blast” and enjoyed providing services to the seniors.
“[The students] act as if they want to take care of us – they’re very dedicated. They should get their certificates today!” she joked.
Simultaneously providing services and gaining experience, the students were both learning from and teaching others.
Some teaching occurred in another computer lab, where teens helped seniors troubleshoot their iPhones and iPads and set up email accounts.
The community appreciation also extended from the auto garage, where students rotated tires and performed vehicle safety checks, to a Thursday jazz concert and yard clean up teams.
“Creating [community sense] in students is very important. It helps tie us in the community and it helps the community tie into the school,” Brady said. “That give and take, that two-way street, is what community appreciation is really about.”