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Kearns seniors, students gather to build lasting relationships

Published May 23, 2013 1:14 pm

'Senior' prom • Night is culmination of yearlong visits to senior center.
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Kearns • Bridging the gap between the younger and older generation, teens from two junior high schools in Kearns have been building relationships with the seniors at the Eddie P. Mayne Kearns Senior Center for a monthly after-school activity.

To culminate the school year, students from Kearns and John F. Kennedy Junior High participated in the fifth annual Pirates of the West "Senior" Prom. The pirate-themed celebration Friday afternoon was full of dinner, pictures, a talent show and senior prom royalty.

"This has been a really great opportunity to break down stereotypes on both sides because a lot of times seniors think that students are just rascally kids," said Kelly Riding, who is the after school manager for Salt Lake County Youth Services. "Sometimes the youth are scared of the senior citizens."

The program called Linking Youth and Kearns Seniors has the students visit once a month to play games with the senior citizens as both groups get the chance to build relationships while playing bingo and billiards.

Seventh grade student Carolyn Leoso has been visiting senior citizens throughout the school year and knows it helps her fill her time in a positive way.

"Its been a great opportunity to come here because there isn't much to do after school and this is a chance to help other people," Carolyn said. "It is just like visiting your family because there are always great people here."

Ricardo Zaragoza, a ninth grade student, had visited at a senior citizen center before in California and knew he would have a good time spending time at the center in Kearns.

"It has come to feel like home to come visit here," Ricardo said. "I have learned that it is not that bad to get old by talking with the seniors."

Having healthy relationships built by the younger and older generation is a good thing for the community. Kearns Senior Center manager Josh Decola has been able to see how the seniors react when the younger students come to visit them.

"We might not be tackling all of society's issues, but one community at a time, I guess," Decola said. "If we can make a little difference between the two generations then it is a good thing."

Senior citizens and students not only play games during their time together but they also were able to plant a little garden in the back of the center and are now just starting to see sprouts of their vegetable garden.

As a volunteer at the Kearns Senior Center, Pauline Jones enjoys the visits of the students because her grandchildren don't live close, and this gives her a chance to spend time with the younger generation.

"I think for the kids, it is very educational for them to see what the seniors are like, and I know the seniors enjoy their company," Jones said. "I think a lot of times, kids don't get a chance to do extracurricular activities, and they need activities like this."

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