October 13, 2016 // 12:26 PM

Community Engagement and Intergenerational Appeal

Written by Trish Lauer

At nearly 8am on a Tuesday, about 30 high school freshmen from Garden Spot High flooded through the front doors of Garden Spot Village. The Refresh Coffee Bar, which serves Starbucks, was created as an open, inviting space with an intergenerational appeal. Its intent is to extend hospitality to the general community and it’s open to the public. The students quickly made themselves at home among the small round tables, the comfortable booths, and the inviting plush sofas and chairs. A few sat down in front of the public computers. It wasn’t long before another group joined them, pushing their total number to 62. The conversations were lively and laughter rang in the air.

About a half an hour later, residents, Human Resources, and Marketing team members arrived to engage the students. They were divided into groups of 10 and taken on a tour, led by either a resident or staff guide, in order to discover more about Garden Spot Village and what it might be like to work here.

“It was really cool,” said Steve Muller, Chief Operating Officer. “I was watching the students talk with residents and they fit right in. The residents here treat everyone like they belong. The intergeneration interaction is part of the appeal of Garden Spot Village.”

“Our visit is one element of a course entitled Seminar 9,” said Jill Hackman, business teacher. “It’s a career preparation and professionalism course where freshman students explore careers, learn about creating and completing professional documents like job applications and resumes and learn professional communication. The ultimate goal of the course is to allow our 9th-grade students to see a real world view of a particular career or industry in their own interest area.” Jill leads the class along with Andy Sensenig, and both teach business at Garden Spot High School. 

During the tour, the students experienced a variety of different departments, learning what happens in those areas and the types of jobs that are available. They got to talk with residents and staff, using the opportunity to ask any questions that came to mind as they went around Garden Spot. After the tour, there were presentations in the Chapel by several department heads who talked about what it’s like to work in departments like Healthcare, Maintenance, Housekeeping, Dining Services, and Administration.

A large number of students get their very first job at Garden Spot Village and some go on to establish successful careers, like Kelly Sweigart. Sweigart, who started in Wellness when she was 16 and today, after completing a degree in marketing communications at Temple University, is a Sales Associate. “This is such a great place for a first job. I’ve worked in several different departments and everyone is so supportive. The managers are wonderful advocates and helped me get positions in other departments over the years.” Mike Lucas, who is currently the Resident Services Team Leader and Assistant Race Director for the Marathon, interned with the Marketing department during his senior year and joined the team full-time right after high school. “I wanted to get into the workforce and start earning a living,” Mike said. “After I save up some money, I’ll start to think about furthering my education.”

Following the tours and the sessions in the Chapel, the students had a little free time before getting back on the bus. With the temptation of a Starbucks drink just up the hallway, their teachers gave a little leeway to order a latte or ice coffee. Garden Spot Village does have its perks.

It’s easy to see that community engagement is extremely important, for both the high school and Garden Spot Village. There’s a genuine interest in sharing and extending hospitality. It turns out to be a win-win for everyone.