seniors and first grade students work together
Today, first grade students volunteer with seniors in the first of five events for Team TurtleLight. Students are visiting the Lowcountry Senior Center to co-create with seniors and spread a little joy. This moment has been months in the making. When Holy City Children founders first met the Director of the Lowcountry Senior Center, Lisa Zobel, she lit up recognizing how the program would not only give children experiences in new places, but would also present a new opportunity for seniors at her center. All generations have a different perspective to offer and something to learn from each others’ unique life experiences.
The Laurel Hill first grade class, led by Ms. Clark, is ready to load the bus at 8am. They are pleasantly surprised by the charter bus awaiting them (thank you TriCounty Transportation!) These young ladies and gentlemen are given the Holy City Children run down, receive HCC temporary tattoos, and share words with Executive Director Craig Morris. As half of today’s do gooders make their way over the Ravenel Bridge to pick up the other first graders from James Island Elementary, some children exclaim, “I’ve never been here before” or “Look at all the restaurants!”
With eyes wide open, the 1st graders of Laurel Hill approach their James Island counterparts, whom they’ll see again several more times between now and when school lets out in May. James Island teacher Ms. Marsico boards the bus with her students and excitement begins rising. Craig takes the reins and explains the team name – that it’s a combination of the two schools mascots. (The Sea Turtle and the Lighthouse).
Children learn the team cheer. Craig encourages, “When I say ‘TURTLE LIGHT’ you say ‘OUT OF SIGHT!’ The kids approve and respond with their part of the cheer throughout the day, boosting morale and proudly displaying team unity.
pairing seniors with children
Director Lisa Zobel identified 18 senior volunteers to pair with the young HCC volunteers. The Senior volunteers are a charming crew of former educators, city officials, business owners, and many others who are loved and appreciated in their community. Each child is paired with a new friend from the opposite school and a senior volunteer.
Once setup in their trio, each group dives into a get to know you exercise. Questions about each others’ backgrounds, interests, and life experiences begin. They are followed by laughter and inquisitive looks. The children are intrigued and learning from others they would likely never encounter in their day to day life.
Pencils sharpened? Check. Now the students sharpen their writing and communication skills as they interview the seniors and scribe their responses.
After getting to know each other, it’s time for the day’s kindness activity. They put love and attention into painting planters, potting succulents, and writing notes to brighten the mood of residents who don’t often receive visitors at the nearby assisted living facility.
the results of working together
What happens, you ask? Magic. Many children shy away from working with new people or even elders if they don’t have grandparents they visit regularly, but not Team Turtle Light! These bright eyed 1st graders are eager to help those less fortunate and work with new people to make it happen. Senior partners and children alike are thrilled, Seniors look forward to the next group of youngsters, and children are already asking about the next event where they can feel the positive vibrations of helping others.
Strangers work together to help others that none of them know and somehow everyone feels great at the end. There’s a rush when spreading joy that is like no other, no matter your age. Life lessons are shared, unlikely connections are made, perspectives expanded, with kindness facilitating it all.
Seniors say goodbye to their new pint sized buddies as children get on the bus and grab a seat next to their partner for the day. Craig hands out “Today I showed Kindness” wristbands to the team, thanking them individually for the work that they’ve completed in the most mature of first grade fashion.
A silent pause before one Laurel Hill student says “ I feel great!” When asked why, the child responds, “Because I had an awesome field trip and I helped somebody.”
The trips wraps up with a couple more TurtleLight cheers as the bus pulls into James Island Elementary. The two classes exchange a “nice to meet you” and “See ya next time!”
To be continued.