Nathan Murcia, a student at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School (KSDA), couldn't make his appointment one day to meet with his senior partner. He told his mother (and the school vice principal), Karen Murcia, what she needed to do in his place.
"You’re going to go and read all her Facebook messages, right? And make sure you show her all of the cat videos; she really likes those," Nathan instructed. Clearly the bond between students and seniors is a special and entertaining one.
Connecting with the community simultaneous to taking care of the everyday business of student life can sometimes seem difficult to synchronize. There's a program, though, that is making this easier.
The Partnering for Eternity grant program from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn., is fostering service-focused, intergenerational relationships between senior community members and students. This grant offers a local, service-oriented student labor program for academies and a scholarship program for elementary students that pairs participating students with elderly adults in their community.
The local school program is limited to 20 percent of the school's enrollment, and the school must have a trained program coordinator. Students fill out and submit reflection sheets after their service activities.
Currently, 111 elementary schools and 40 academies from every union in the North American Division are participating, with recent expansion efforts in Washington and Oregon. KSDA and nearby Puget Sound Adventist Academy (PSAA) are among the first schools in the Seattle area to join Partnering for Eternity. They have already been blessed by the initial implementation and are looking forward to expanding the program.
Eight students are in Kirkland and Puget Sound's Partnering for Eternity group. These students visit their senior partners at Kirkland's Brookdale Retirement Center on a weekly basis for an hour to assist with daily housekeeping tasks. They also troubleshoot and teach technology use. This area of need for seniors is often overlooked, and Brookdale’s residents have been so appreciative of the assistance they have received, enabling them to set up their cellphones and join Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends.
The reflections students fill out after their sessions show how the program’s efforts to build empathy, responsibility and openness are working and a blessing to everyone involved.
Southern Adventist University has had the unique opportunity since 2006 to manage this one-of-a-kind grant that creates a local, service-oriented student labor program for academies and a scholarship program for elementary students that pairs participating students with elderly adults in their community.
Karen Murcia is excited to continue nurturing the Partnering for Eternity group in a meaningful combination of community service, intergenerational relationships and student tuition assistance. Based on the initial experience, this program is one that will positively impact many for eternity.