FHS seniors help senior citizens again, while some juniors get involved in new volunteering program


Photo: Lily Condron

Seniors from Fairmont High School and around the Kettering community gather for a night of fun during the Seniors Helping Seniors Dance on Thursday, March 6.

Another round of the Ohio Graduation Test has come and gone, and the end of the school year will soon be approaching. While freshmen and sophomores spent the week of OGT testing, well, taking tests, many juniors and seniors experienced volunteering opportunities in the Kettering community.

A whopping 212 Fairmont seniors traveled to nursing homes for arts and crafts projects with Kettering’s senior citizens. This was the fifth year of Seniors Helping Seniors, according to Activities Coordinator Corey Miller.

Senior Paige Wyckoff volunteered with her entire advisory, working together with Kettering’s seniors at different nursing homes. “We painted flower pots and bags for the seniors,” said Wyckoff. “We also made tissue paper flowers to help decorate for the Seniors Helping Seniors dance.”

This was an entirely new experience for Wyckoff. “I have not volunteered with elderly people before. We went early in the morning while they were eating breakfast, so we got to experience how the nurses deal with them. Many older people don’t like to eat, so you really have to encourage them. You have to pick up their fork and tell them to eat or they won’t actually eat anything,” said Wyckoff. “Normally, I work with little kids or animals, so this was very different from my past volunteering.”

Her overall favorite memory? “Brad Steel asked one of the older gentlemen if he could help him find a date to Prom. Brad wanted advice on who to ask and how to ask, so the guy gave him some advice,” said Wyckoff. “That was pretty funny.”

This year was senior Sarah Anstaett’s second year volunteering for Seniors Helping Seniors. While running for United Student Body, she was encouraged to come last year as a junior so that she’d be prepared for this year. “It was great to see what went into it so that we could fix the problems we saw and make the program better every year,” said Anstaett, Fairmont’s current USB vice president.

Anstaett also enjoyed the Seniors Helping Seniors Dance, which took place March 6 in the Fairmont Commons. At this event, senior citizens from nursing homes join FHS seniors for a night of dancing. “The dance was a lot of fun,” said Anstaett. “It’s one of my favorite dances. Homecoming and Prom are fun, but the Seniors Helping Seniors Dance is right up there.”

Wyckoff agrees. “There were a lot of seniors that I saw at the dance that I met earlier in the week, and it was fun getting to see them again.”

Junior Ashley Laurent attended Seniors Helping Seniors because she had an  interest in being a part of USB. “One of our obligations was to sign up for at least two days of volunteering in order to get experience in it, because next year that will be one of the main things we do as seniors,” she said.

Laurent said she enjoyed her volunteering time, despite missing out on sleep. “It was a lot of fun. Sleeping in is a lot of fun, too – and I’m not going to lie, at some points I really wanted to go back to bed – but there were some points I really enjoyed, especially when I met all these really funny senior citizens.”

Laurent’s funniest moment was when a senior lady began talking to her about “men these days” in comparison with men of her time. According to Laurent, the lady said, “Men these days are so attractive, but they are so stupid.” Laurent was thrilled by her hilarious nature. “I love making new friends. It’s always fun.”

Juniors Join Kettering is the newest volunteer program at Fairmont. The concept evolved through Partners for Healthy Youth. The program allows juniors to volunteer and job shadow at businesses in the Kettering community. “The board wanted a way to give students more opportunities to serve, as well as to let students know that we value them,” said Addie Weaver, Youth Development Coordinator for the City of Kettering. “This project allowed those two concepts to come together.”

Miller also notes other influences. “It was something that [Fairmont Principal Dan] VonHandorf had in the back of his mind. He said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the juniors had some sort of opportunity during OGT Week?’” said Miller.

Weaver was thrilled with the success of the event. “Community members opened their doors to teach and show youth a side they normally don’t get to see,” said Weaver. “Youth were able to learn about Kettering and given a unique opportunity that they volunteered to do, which was a great success for all.”

More than 40 juniors volunteered for the Juniors Join Kettering program this year. Junior Logan Sowers volunteered to help clean at the Kettering Recreation Complex. “It was one of my first times volunteering in Kettering,” said Sowers. “I thought it was a really great experience.”

Sowers has volunteered previously in many other areas. “I went on a mission trip to St. Louis,” said Sowers. “I helped clean up the city.”

Junior Thao Le also participated in Juniors Join Kettering. She went to Reynolds & Reynolds to job shadow. “We got to see what kind of stuff they do,” said Le. “They create advertisements for cars. They also design websites, which seems really easy, but it’s actually really hard: You have to buy websites, get approved, and if you don’t get approved, then it doesn’t work out.”

These students found the opportunity to be very rewarding. “I knew that it would be good for the community and benefit a lot of people,” said Sowers. “I thought it was a good opportunity and not too hard to do. I think it’s a really great experience and you can learn a lot from it. It’s an easy way to get volunteer credit hours and help the community at the same time.”

Some students found their inspiration through a desire to give back to the Kettering community. “It gives me something to do”, said Le, “because I would rather do something around the community and impact someone’s life than just stay at home and sleep, whether it’s small talk or something big.”

Anstaett suggests next year’s students participate for those exact reasons. “Get involved in the community, because you’ll realize as a senior that the community has provided a lot, and it’s a great way to give back,” she said.

Others also see the value in volunteering at a young age. “You should participate because it gives you something to do and you can experience the world outside of school, work and your house,” said Le. “You get to explore careers to see if you’re interested in something or not, and if you are interested, you could even go back there one day later in the future and try it again.”

Laurent agrees. “It’s kind of like Prom. It’s just one of those things that you have to do at least once.”

Miller knows this kind of volunteering helped her as a student. “I definitely think it helps you learn what types of people you might want to work with in the future because you might experience something important,” said Miller. “When I was in high school, I worked a lot with the Special Olympics, and that was something I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had that opportunity.”

Miller hopes the opportunities offered through Fairmont will help students develop a lifelong habit of helping. “You can continue that through your entire life, volunteering and doing things where you’re not expecting anything in return,” she said. “It’s very valuable.”