Hersey High School Virtual Programs for Seniors

Hersey Students Spread Joy to Older Adults through Virtual Programs
Posted on 02/09/2021
Cooking ClassTraditions that have carried on for decades, such as visits by Hersey High School’s Love Bus for Valentine’s Day, are just one of many things sorely missed by patrons of the Arlington Heights Senior Center. 

Since 2004, the school’s Service Over Self Club has partnered with the Senior Center for its annual “Senior Olympics” event, a program that blends two generations of “seniors” for an intergenerational day of fun and friendly competition. Then came a spin-off in recent years where the school sent a yellow school bus to the center to pick up guests for its “Back to School Day” program – and literally walked them back through the halls of high school. But 2020 brought an end to both of these adored activities.

In recent weeks, however, a new semester and fresh ideas has prompted the students of Mark Gunther’s Service Over Self classes to come up with unique ways to get back together with their older adult friends. Even though the programs will need to be held virtually, both sides are hopeful that face-to-face interactions on screen will reignite the connection that has been fostered between the two groups for years.

Between mid-February and early-May, the high school seniors will facilitate five different virtual programs over a span of 20 dates. With the primary goal being socialization between the generations, both age groups may also learn a thing or two along the way. 

Under the supervision of Gunther, senior Laine Hackman has partnered with the senior center’s program coordinator, Karie Van Grinsven to come up with a wide range of free programs, from a rotating game day to a series of art projects and even live cooking demos with Chef Lucas, one of Hersey’s entrepreneurs. All sessions will be held within Service Over Self class time, 11:20 a.m. -12:15 p.m., with the first 10 minutes reserved for getting to know one another. 

Initially welcomed as a pilot project for a few days in February, Van Grinsven was confident that the programs would be a success and quickly extended it out for as long as she could with Hackman. Taking the program nearly all the way to graduation day. “We know our folks love and miss our Hersey friends and, without hesitation, the answer was ‘YES!’ when Laine first reached out to me,” said Van Grinsven. “I didn’t even wait to work out all the technical details before telling her we’d give just about anything a try to be able to reconnect with Hersey, Mr. Gunther and the terrific Hersey students that bring out the best in all of us whenever we’re together.”

Details of the programs, which kick off February 11, include thirteen rotating game days of Kahoot, Scattergories and poker (strictly for fun, not money), five unique arts/crafts days and two live cooking demos. Supplies and ingredients will even be provided for the arts & crafts projects and cooking classes. No experience needed for any of the programs. The only catch is that advanced registration will be required and some programs will have capacity limits. For more information and to register, call the Arlington Heights Senior Center at 847.253.5532. Upon registration, links to the Zoom sessions will be emailed at least one day prior to each event. There is no limit to the number of programs for which one can register. All age 55 and better are welcome.

Together, Hackman and Van Grinsven are excited to see how the programs unfold, both acknowledging that life lessons may very well be the bonus outcome of these class-time sessions. They also are quite sure that a whole lot of joy will be spread along the way.