I began Sweet Readers in the fall of 2016; Marley, a current Young Leader, integrated a group of my close friends into an after school Sweet Readers program at the New Jewish Home that met every Monday throughout the school year. I still remember my first day as a Sweet Reader. I sat anxiously in a library at the New Jewish Home, not knowing what to expect. As soon as I met my partner Alberta, my nerves were calmed. Although Alberta and I differed in many ways, what mattered in that moment was our humanity; when she smiled at me, I knew that our connection was so special and important for each of us equally.
Participating in Sweet Readers programs with my friends strengthened our relationships with one another through our shared joy in connecting with our partners and with each other. Towards the end of my time as a Sweet Reader, I fondly recall sitting around a table with my friends and our partners. We engaged in group conversations and even sang songs altogether. The two years that we shared as Sweet Readers brought us even closer together because we learned and matured alongside one another as we participated in the program.
Throughout my time as a Sweet Reader and as a member of the Leadership Council, I have witnessed the strength of the partnership between Sweet Readers and the New Jewish Home. The New Jewish Home always warmly welcomed us when we entered the building for our programs. As the weeks progressed, my friends and I got to know the staff at the New Jewish Home. They were always so kind and helpful when we needed assistance with our adult partners. I grew especially acquainted with an aid named Katie. Katie was a sweet and extremely dedicated care partner for the residents at the New Jewish Home. It was comforting to have Katie there for every session. Katie happily watched the residents engage with us. It was beautiful to see the New Jewish Home’s staff work in tandem with us and our facilitator to ensure a successful and productive session.