Forsyth service learning project connects students with senior citizens

Forsyth, Mo. -- A service learning project in Forsyth is connecting students with senior citizens.

About 15 kids from Forsyth Middle School have been visiting the Forsyth Nursing and Rehab Center a couple of times per week.

On Monday, the students brought special gifts for each resident.

"I like giving the gifts because it makes me feel warm inside," Student Olivia Kossmann said.

However, the seniors and the students aren't strangers. The kids have been visiting regularly for more than a year. It's all part of the Teen Outreach Program, or TOP. Funds for the program are provided through the Taney County Health Department, given to counties with higher teen pregnancy rates.

"The program is mostly built around building life skills, social and emotional stills, empathy, goal-setting," Community Health Educator Patricia Civiello said. "It's a type of character education and at the same time building up self-esteem."

Civiello says the students choose their own service learning projects. So, the kids decided to give smiles at the center. Through the interactions, like games and conversations, the kids learn lasting lessons.

"They teach us a lot of things that they've done in the past when they were younger," Alyssa Powers said.

The relationships are bridging gaps between generations and bring the community closer together.

"They join our family," Resident Joann Hill said.

Monday was the last visit during summer school but the kids say they are already planning to continue this project next school year.