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The Suburbanite
  • Communication study connects generations

  • Student the Advanced Interpersonal Communications class at Kent State Stark spent four week with an older adults at SarahCare. During each visit, the students and adults visited for 45 minutes to an hour.
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  • Don't expect Krystal Rini to give up on love any time soon.
    The Kent State University Stark communications major discovered that true love always finds its way during a recent community service project she and her eight fellow classmates participated in. The project partnered the Kent State students with adults attending SarahCare Adult Day Care Center, located near the campus.
    "My partner in the project was named Ed and he met his current wife at SarahCare," Rini said. "They got married during my project time. He was divorced once and widowed once in the past. The biggest lesson I learned is to never give up on love."
    Erin Hollenbaugh, associate professor at Kent State Stark devised the project. Each student from her Advanced Interpersonal Communications class was to spend four week with an older adults at SarahCare. During each visit, the students and adults visited for 45 minutes to an hour.
    "The project was a way to look deeper at theoretical communications skills for which we all want to be better at," Hollenbaugh said. "Plus, the project exposed students to intergenerational communications with older adults. As the final part of the project, students collected data and incorporated their experience from the project into a research paper."
    Karla Hopkins, activity director at SarahCare, said each student was provided a biography of each of the participants from the center.
    "As I watched the students interact with the seniors, the communications was awesome and the seniors got a great sense of value from the project," Hopkins said. "The students really connected with their partners at the Center and they knew and remembered the students each time they came back. It was an amazing thing to see."
    Hollenbaugh said there is always two sides of any community project.
    "One side of community service is the giving part and the second is the learning that comes from giving," Hollenbaugh said.
    Kent student Alexis Abraham spent time with SarahCare adult Norma.
    "She taught me to always come at things with an open mind and to never judge," Abraham said.
    At the end of the project, students presented their partner with a tribute gift.
    Tana Watson gave her partner a book about the company that he worked for as part of her tribute gift on the last day of the project.
    "He always talked about his work and how much he loved working at his company. So I went to the company's website and printed off information and put it in a scrapbook for him to keep," Watson said. "For my research paper, I included information on work and life balance, work satisfaction and how a job connects to other areas of our lives."
    Some of the other tribute gifts included one student making a quilt; another got a blanket embroidered with her partner's name, one student painted a picture of horses and another got her partner blue nail polish because she loved the color blue and getting her nails done. Others created photo scrapbooks, photo collages and gave gift cards.
    Page 2 of 2 - "My partner's name was Ruby and she was overwhelmingly positive and funny," said Jenna Ramsey. "She taught me life is what you make it and you have to be positive and make it fun. She said you only go around one time and she said she is doing what she wants now."
    Amanda Maitino said that she didn't stereotype older people before she started this project. She felt her partner would have a story to tell.
    "I went into this with an open mind which was important," Maitino said. "My partner was 92. Some of the partners had difficulty hearing and some would forget certain things."
    Hopkins said that the project was positive for the people at the Center. She said one partner was new to the Center and the project helped bring him out of his shell more and got him involved.
    This is the first time Hollenbaugh asked her students to complete the project. After looking at the research papers the students turned in, she believes it was so successful that she wants to use it in the future.
    "I am looking at incorporating this type of project as a yearly activity," Hollenbaugh said.
    Hopkins said the project received positive feedback from the partners and their families at the Center. She said that others want to get involved in the future. Those that participated this year said that the project gave them a purpose.

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