Burgeo students adopt a grandparent

Program builds friendships between young and old

Published on February 14, 2017

Students and staff at Burgeo Academy have found a unique way to spend quality time with local seniors.

The school started its Adopt a Grandparent Program about three years ago.

Students from the all grade school spend one afternoon a month interacting with people at the South West Seniors Complex.

The initiative came about when the complex’s janitor Sandra Billard — who also works at the school — approached the school’s guidance counsellor Ruby Penney to see if a program could be established between the school and the seniors’ complex.

“Sandra developed a relationship with the seniors. They have a lot going on at the complex but Sandra felt it would be nice for our kids to visit them and do some activities,” Penney said.

Penney and Billard then came up with the Adopt a Grandparent Program.

The program runs from October to June. Each month a different grade will visit the seniors. All students from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve will take part at some point.

The teachers accompany the students on the outing. Barbie Coley, a parent volunteer, is important to the program.

“Barbie will gage the activity depending on the level of the students and the seniors. She helps the teachers prepare the lessons. She does any cutting or pasting or pre-work that needs to be done,” Penney said.

Coley also ensures that the seniors and students are served refreshments during their get-togethers.

They do an hour of activity then there’s a half-hour or 45 minutes for having a lunch.

Billard is also a great help, Penney said, as she sets up the room and helps in whatever way she can.

“The (school) bus brings the kids up. The (school) bus brings the kids back. They have a load of fun,” Penney said.

Penney oversees the program. Plenty of pictures are taken during the outings, she said.

She then uploads a slideshow of the activities on the school’s channel 62.

“The parents get to see it, the seniors get to see themselves, and the kids get to see it. I also print off a copy of all the pictures and give them to Sandra,” Penney said. “She puts (these) on the wall in the seniors’ common room.”

The school’s music teacher, Catherine Rogers, also participates in the program. She’s taken her piano and they’ve had a sing-a-long. This December past she took the choir there and every student played their solo on piano and they sang songs.

While the seniors love having the children visit them, Penney said, the children are also learning a great deal from their interaction with residents at the complex.

“The kids are learning about respect and empathy from this program,” she said. “And over the years since we’ve been doing this program, we’ve had a few seniors who have passed away.

“We didn’t realize the connectedness the kids had with these seniors. Some of the kids were so distraught when they heard they’d passed away.”

Seven-year-old Summer Durnford is a Grade Two student at Burgeo Academy. She looks forward to her time with the seniors.

She she likes helping out the older people, she said.

“We do Halloween crafts and Christmas Crafts and Valentine crafts. We do all different kinds of crafts and we play games and sing songs. It’s fun for the seniors and for us,” Summer said.