Kate: They say it takes a village to effect change and to do that we need lots of great participation. Could you please share with our readers how different levels of participation have helped you build and bridge communities as a Sweet Reader and Young Leader?
Campbell: I have really enjoyed the opportunity of being a Young Leader this year. I am really looking forward to bridge together communities, and establish meaningful connections. We are very lucky to have a group of incredible teens that are all passionate about helping others. Especially during these crazy times, it is reassuring to know that there are people making the world a better place.
While it is great to have inspired youth, for the communities to get the full benefit, we involve school faculty, administrators, the administrators of the eldercare home and families of all of the participants. As a former 8th grader that got trained for Sweet Readers at Brunswick school, I was lucky to have advisors such as Mr. Landesman, Mrs. Withstandley, and Mrs. Burdett to support me and my classmates. Having advisors that truly believe in the program helps us to become mature and experienced Young Leaders and get and give the most out of and from the experience.
Also, to sustain these communities, Sweet Readers invests in staff, training and technologies to deliver the programs, training and evaluations digitally and in person (before and after the pandemic). Some of those costs are covered by fees, but when we want to reach adults in homes without the resources, we fundraise and then friends and family in our communities come together to make that possible.
Mia: I was a Sweet Reader in 7th grade where I continuously met with a lady named Elsa. I loved meeting with Elsa because we both learned new things about each other. Elsa was an artist and taught me all kinds of things. She constantly impressed everyone in the room with her skills. It was really meaningful to see Elsa’s memory improve the more we met. In the beginning she sometimes needed to be reminded of my name, however by the end of her sessions she recalled almost everything we talked about. I think all of the people in the room created a village of support around me and Elsa. That included teachers, other Sweet Readers, other older adults and their care partners.
As a Young Leader, I’m learning that creating the programs and bridging the communities takes a village as well. I am having a great experience working with Whitney and Campbell. We started with our curriculum, which we tested over the summer and now we are working with the home and our friends on logistics. We all work together really well and each of us contributes something different. We are super excited to share the curriculum we have developed with others!
Whitney: First, I’d like to tell you about Rose, whom I had the privilege to speak with every week this past summer as a Sweet Reader. The village revolves around the very special bonds and connections that are formed between the Sweet Readers and their adult partners. I learned so much about the things we had in common, but also received great advice from her. Talking with someone who has been through so many phases of life has so many benefits as you can learn so much from people who have so much experience fighting hardships and living life to the fullest. My favorite advice from Rose was to never act on anger, but instead to allow yourself to calm down for a day before confronting someone. I was also able to connect with Rose on so many levels about foods we like and our passions. She always pushed me to do my best, and when I had my permit test in June, she encouraged me and calmed my nerves, and I passed!
The connections formed at Sweet Readers are a two-way street so it is important that the school and adult partners have good communication so we can meet at the right times to maintain a strong community. For example, Parsonage Cottage has been an amazing partner because they communicate with us on any issues and never miss a meeting. Their ability to connect adults with Sweet Readers is excellent and makes it possible for meaningful friendships to form.
My school, Greenwich Academy also has so many kind and passionate students who want to help isolated adults, making it easy to put together teams and have real impact.