CLARION - Each spring for the past 11 years, middle school students from the Clarion-Goldfield and Dows Schools have invited seniors, grandparents, and retirees "back to school" for one evening.
The students are all peer helpers - students who lead, reach out, and volunteer within the school and the community.
Some of the "older students" are peer helpers' grandparents; some are their neighbors. Others are retirees in the Clarion area.
-Messenger photo by Karen Weld
Bill Stuck of Galt and Lorine Meyer enjoy dancing with middle school peer helpers as they interact with the younger generation at the annual “Grandparent, Seniors, & Retiree Night” at the school. The older adults return to school to continue their education and enjoy the younger students. The Clarion-Goldfield Middle School jazz band provided the music.
All who come work "to bridge the gap between the generations," according to middle school Principal Steve Haberman.
More than 200 retirees and senior citizens attended the event, which was held May 2 at the middle school building in Clarion.
Marj Cramer, a retired farmer, has come to all of the Senior Nights.
"I really enjoy it," she said. "I like seeing so many people who I don't normally see in my everyday life."
The evening begins with a pork loin sandwich dinner, prepared by the Clarion Ruritans and served by staff, community volunteers, and the peer helpers. Bingo playing for the large group kicks off the class time together, before senior students break up into smaller groups for their individual classes.
Pam Townsend, who recently returned to her hometown after 45 years, attended her first senior and retiree night this year.
"I thought this was the most wonderful idea," she said, "to have the younger and older members of our community doing something like this together."
Townsend said she enjoyed the sing-along time and got so caught up in some of the musical hits and interacting with those who were singing, she didn't take advantage of some of the other activities. When the middle school jazz band closed off the evening in the gymnasium, Townsend was one of the dancers on the floor with some of the students.
Clarion City Recreation Director Tom Simmons solicited gifts and prizes and led the senior aerobic class.
"I love doing this event," he said. "I look forward to it each year. I really love the older people and the younger people both. They are all such a joy with whom to work."
Contact Karen Weld at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org