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Rosemount Middle School students building a bridge between generations

Rosemount Middle School eighth graders Kelsi Rygg, Blythe Weniger and Ella Lovold chat with a resident of The Rosemount before diving into a “finish the animal phrase” activity. The students volunteer at The Rosemount every Wednesday during their advisor and Irish time. (RiverTowns Multimedia photo by Jennifer Steichen)

Sometimes special connections come in the most unexpected of places. When eighth-grader Ella Lovold volunteered to give up part of her school day to visit with the seniors living across the street at The Rosemount, she wasn't quite sure what she was getting herself into.

"Before I came here, I didn't think it would be fun at all," Lovold said.

Now, she looks forward to her Wednesday afternoon excursions with a group of fellow eighth-grade girls.

"It picks up their day. Some (residents) don't have grandkids, so they're excited to see us," Lovold said. "I like getting to hear stories about their childhood and see what their lives were like."

Rosemount Middle School administrator Brad Schafer said he came up with the idea for a school day volunteer group while working with a leadership group comprised of about 80 eighth-graders at RMS. He and other administrators thought it would be fun to connect students with seniors at The Rosemount, which sits directly across the street from RMS.

He proposed the idea of sending a small group of young leaders over to volunteer with seniors during the students' advisor and Irish time, two non-academic times in the middle of their day.

"We thought if we could incorporate it into our school day, it would be more accessible to them," Schafer said.

Interest was so high among students that Schafer had to put together a waiting list. He plans to cycle eight different students through the program every eight weeks or so.

Volunteers begin with a tour of the senior living facility and an orientation. Then they are assigned to work with residents in either the Care Suites or the Memory Care Suites. The students visit with the seniors during their lunch and activities time. They might play a simple game of catch with a resident or partake in a group game that requires a bit of brain stimulation.

The Rosemount's activities director Vicki Peterson said she likes the program because it gives residents an opportunity to share their stories and to have somebody take an interest in them.

"They are able to share their stories with a new generation," Peterson said. "For those that want that interaction, it's so meaningful on both sides of the conversation."

Schafer said he has received nothing but positive feedback from the first two groups of students to participate.

"When I took them over, I couldn't believe how excited they were," he said.

Peterson said she has been impressed by the group of middle schoolers and their level of respect and enthusiasm.

"They have chosen, out of the many options they have at RMS, to spend their free time over here with our seniors. They really care that they're here to make a difference. I hope from their time here, eventually they will continue to volunteer on their own time, not just with the school program," Peterson said.

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