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Local senior citizens get a visit from student volunteers on MLK Day

As part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students from Rowan University and Camden City School District spent their day at the Mullica Gardens Assisted Living Center

CHAMP Program Assistant Tyherrah Rogers speaks to senior citizens at the Mullica Garden Assisted Living Center as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 20. 

The Mullica Hill Rotary Club teamed up with Rowan University and Camden City School District students to spend a day with senior citizens as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

On Jan. 20, five Rowan students and five high school students from the Creating Higher Aspiration and Motivation Project (CHAMP) met with Rotary members to educate the senior citizens at the Mullica Gardens Assisted Living facility about King’s life and achievements, as well as play games and provide companionship for the day.

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CHAMP, a branch of Rowan, serves 297 sixth through 12th grade Camden City middle and high school students annually with college access activities, such as assistance with college applications and cultural and educational trips to prepare them for college, according to its website. For the students visiting the assisted living center in Mullica Hill, the goal was to look into the community and see what it really needs.

“These are the people that have been in our community for years,” said Program Assistant Tyherrah Rogers. “A lot of times [senior citizens] come into assisted living and sometimes family isn’t able to visit them or their grandkids aren’t able to visit them. This is something that keeps their mind going and the last thing we want them to do is to sit here and be alone. When you mix the youth with the elderly, it brings back that light in their eyes. Seeing that was a great thing.” 

Before the students sat down with the seniors to play games and chat, they asked trivia questions regarding King’s life, which ranged from where he was born to how many children he had to where he made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 

“These folks have lived it. Being that they lived it, they walked in that light. They might be battling with things like dementia, Alzheimer’s…they might not remember it. So bringing back that trivia into it, just sparking that memory back into them, like, ‘Wow, I really lived through this, I’ve seen our society come from this, and go to this,’” Rogers said. 

The organization strives to expose its students to different careers and pathways, and provide a new look at holistic student development. With that comes service. 

“For us all to be sitting in the same room together and then interacting with people that they might not have necessarily interacted with 20, 30 years ago is a beautiful thing,” Rogers said. “That’s why we do it.”

Rowan approached the service-based Mullica Hill Rotary, which has been in existence since the early 2000s, to join them on a day that is dedicated to service and community. 

“We said it’s perfect for our mission and so we decided to come here and to really do something with the seniors because sometimes they’re overlooked and it’s nice to give them some joy,” Rotary Youth Services Director Denise Racano said. 

“It’s a way for our club and the students to do a service to the seniors that live here, and whether it’s playing a game with them or even just talking with them, sometimes that’s all you need.”

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