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High school seniors throw parade for nursing home seniors they've been paired with since October

Posted at 6:16 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 17:15:49-04

BARBERTON, Ohio — What began as a senior project resulted in meaningful friendships for more than a dozen high school students in Summit County.

“I talked to her on the phone last night and she said she was super excited to see all of our decorated cars,” Emma Spoerke said.

As part of the Four Cities Compact, high school seniors from Barberton, Norton, Copley and Wadsworth have been paired with seniors living in nursing homes since October.

“I don’t have, my grandpa passed away,” Sydney Hatula said, “So he’s almost like my grandfather figure.”

On Wednesday, students enrolled in the Advancement to Nursing program paid their senior friends a socially distanced visit.

“We put this together and allow the students to have some kind of closure with their residents and say goodbye to them,” Cindy Boswell said.

Diane Miller said the program has given her something extra to smile about for the last seven months.

“Today was a good day to be outside,” Miller said. “I see the sun’s trying to come back again now.”

Just as sure as the sun returned, so did Miller’s favorite visitor.

“I’m old enough probably to be their grandmother, but it was so nice to bond with my student,” Miller said.

While visitation rules at senior care facilities have changed since the pandemic began, the commitment to companionship has not.

“She treated me like family. I came to love her dearly,” Miller said. “You know, she would just do anything and go out of her way to try to help me out.”

For many residents, the parking lot parade was the first sight of a familiar face in weeks.

“As the days go on, I think it’s starting to wear on people too, you know,” Miller said.

Whether it’s a wave through the car window or the sound of a shared song, these high school students have learned the gift of true friendship has little to do with generation.

“Any time there’s a bunch of people getting together with some kind of parade, I’m for it,” Pat Justahan said, “I love it. I love it! I’m a big kid at heart.”