St. John’s Students Impacted by Intergenerational Program with Cornerstone at Canton Assisted Living

Since 2015, students from St. John the Evangelist School in Canton have been visiting residents at Cornerstone at Canton, regularly taking part in programs at the Assisted Living and Compass Memory Support Community.

Pictured above: Mary Gorman (left), resident at Cornerstone, and Deedee Denaud (right), 8th grade student at St. John’s

The relationship between the school and the senior community began in the Fall of 2015, when Julie Wade, then Cornerstone’s Director of EnrichedLIFE Programming, reached out to Jo Petrunyak, a parent volunteer at St. John’s at the time, about finding a creative way to bring the school’s middle school students into the assisted living community to build new relationships and allow each group to get to know one another. Wade, parent volunteers and the school’s faculty were excited to set something up. 

A program launched within a few months where eighth grade students visited Cornerstone occasionally to participate in craft projects, trivia games and other activities with residents. These visits became monthly in the Fall of 2016. In the following year, seventh grade students were invited into the community as well. The program became more formalized in 2017, with seventh and eighth grade students each visiting once a month. Wade worked with Nell Kavolius, Cornerstone’s now EnrichedLIFE Director, as well as St. John’s parent leader Karen McGuire to incorporate more of a dementia education piece to it, including information on how to build therapeutic programs for seniors.

While the activities with seventh graders feature more ice-breakers and introductions, eighth graders become more involved in the creation of programs and learn specific endpoints to look for to measure success of their programming. The activities in their second year are more advanced and sophisticated, and students learn to adapt their programs to the senior audience through role playing.

Pictured above starting from front left: Cornerstone Resident Dorrie Nichols, Amanda Brice (back), eighth grade student at St. John’s and Matt Hart, eighth grade student.

The students are quite vocal about the impact of this program. “Some of them don’t have a lot of visitors, so it’s nice that we get to be their visitors,” says Marco, eighth grade student at St. John’s.

“I love visiting because I see how excited they are when they see us,” says Amanda Ferrera-Fizer, eighth grade student.

“Even if a resident is sitting alone and not in the activity, if you go over and talk to them, they open up and tell you about their life,” says AJ Lysko, eighth grade student. 

“This program provides a unique opportunity for the students to be exposed to the challenges some older adults face, including memory impairment, isolation and loss,” observes Wade, now the Director of Compass Memory Support Programming at Cornerstone. “I believe we are raising future professionals who may consider careers working with seniors. Some of the students who have been a part of this program have even come back to volunteer or intern with us.”