You could sense the excitement as a dozen residents of Senior Living at Cambridge Heights eagerly shuffled into their building’s community gathering room to wait for their visitors to enter. The guests were not family or even fellow seniors—instead, they were over thirty 7th grade students in Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) at Brittany Woods Middle School.
Their visit with seniors across St. Louis was their first experience of community service learning (CSL), an important component of the TOP curriculum. Through CSL, these teens will realize their potential to positively impact their community, learn to successfully work in teams, and gain a greater self-awareness of how their actions impact others.
Community service learning also benefits the communities the teens serve. Senior citizens at Cambridge Heights partnered with Brittany Woods’ TOP clubs last year, and after several positive experiences, they were anxious to meet this new group of 7th graders.
After a quick round of chaotic introductions, the teens proceeded to ask the seniors questions about their lives. The teens had brainstormed their questions during TOP club, and each student chose a question from a manila folder. The questions covered everything from civil rights to birthdays, but they all had a central theme: who are you and what can I learn from your life?
Laughter burst out across the room after a boy asked the seniors about the happiest moment of their lives. “This one right now,” one woman jokingly replied before chuckling. Their lighthearted responses and shared glances implied that their understanding of life—its hardships, joys, and transience—was on a different level than the young people before them. This age and cultural gap was celebrated as seniors reflected on their favorite foods and games and learned the interests of this future generation.
Advice for today’s teens was a topic seniors were quick to answer. “I’m worried about the decisions that most young people are making, but I can tell you guys are a good group,” one resident said before continuing with advice. “Stay in school, be very selective of your friends, and watch your attitude.”
By providing the right supports and opportunities through TOP, Wyman plans to make the seniors’ hopes for this generation a reality.
To check out more pictures from this event, visit Wyman on Facebook.