Students, Seniors Team Up to Introduce Middle Schoolers to College Life

April 5, 2017

Students at St. John Fisher College teamed up with residents from the Episcopal SeniorLife Communities (ESLC) to plan an inspirational program about college opportunities for middle school students. The program, now in its second year, was the culmination of a semester-long sociology course, Helping Professions in Action.

Fisher students, Valley Manor residents, and students from School #20 spent time together during the

As part of their exploration of human services needs in the community, the students partnered with 10 residents of Valley Manor, an ESLC independent living community, to create an enriching program for students in the Rochester City School District. The team combined the philanthropy and nonprofit experience of the residents with the students’ knowledge of new approaches to social work in multicultural communities.

Fisher students and Valley Manor residents welcome fourth graders from School #20 to campus.

Fisher students and Valley Manor residents welcome fourth graders from School #20 to campus.

On Monday, April 3, 40 fourth-graders from Henry Lomb School #20 benefited from the groups combined expertise during the “Day at Fisher.” The event aimed to encourage the students to see themselves going to college, and included an inspirational hip hop performance by Fisher students, a tour of campus, and lunch in Ward-Haffey Dining Hall.

Dr. Patricia Tweet, assistant professor of sociology, human services concentration, believes the service-learning course gives students real-world experience while providing a tangible service to the community.

“Service-learning, as part of the curriculum, provides a bridge from volunteer work to internships,” said Tweet. “The goal for this particular project was for students to discover the power of sharing knowledge of philanthropy and community-based organizations, and caring and compassion, across generations.  This is key when planning and implementing a program to benefit children in the community.”

Fisher students and fourth graders from School #20 enjoy lunch during the

Fisher students and fourth graders from School #20 enjoy lunch during the "Day at Fisher" event.

Dr. Lynn Donahue, director of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, said the partnership between the College, senior community, and school is enriching to all and is an example of how the College is integrating coursework with service.

“We have an increased focus on community engagement, which is essential to our overall mission,” said Donahue. “We encourage active citizens and provide opportunities for our students to serve our community.”

Gail Reeves, manager of resident services at Valley Manor, noted that the program was similarly enriching for residents.

“This has been a wonderful learning opportunity for all involved,” said Reeves. “Intergenerational partnerships such as these are extremely meaningful to our residents, and I foresee this program continuing for many years to come.”