During an annual event Unity High School students face off with Senior Neighbors in fun and friendly bingo games. This year’s gathering was festive and enjoyed by all who participated, including a dozen students.
This initiative started at least seven years ago when a Unity High student thought of the idea as a community service project. Each December students take a short bus ride to Senior Neighbors where thirty or people see if they can create an established pattern on their cards as the famous letter and number combinations. Sue Sweet is a teacher at Unity High School and oversees the event with students. “Students are pushed out of their comfort zone as they interact with senior citizens. While it is a small gesture to simply play bingo, the time given and interactions that occur are valuable.” she comments. Those who participate for the first time can be apprehensive at first but find themselves at ease by the last game.
Tension grows as comments indicate someone is getting close. Finally “BINGO” is shouted, often accompanied by hands and arms raised with an occasional fist pump to complement the celebration. Banter between the winner and losers ensues. But smiles and laughter shine through the moans and groans. There’s hope for the next game as the winner selects the type of bingo which must be achieved in the next game.
Seniors on Seniors
Lon Tower, Jordan Golden, and Dan Reed are all seniors at Unity High. They’ve enjoyed their time with senior citizens over the years. The three young men learn from as well as teach during the experience. Tower’s reply when asked what he learns is, “I would like to work on my communication skills with individuals outside my social class.” And Reed’s response to the same question is, “ I would like to learn how they feel about us. Do they enjoy seeing us and interacting with us?”
Teaching those at Senior Neighbors also occurs even if it is not openly pointed out. “Unity students are the same as other high school students. Alternative does not mean negative.” states Jordan Golden. He hopes through interactions with seniors and others in the community this misconception will be changed. Lon Tower’s goal was to show the seniors how the younger generations can be respectful and responsible.
In the end members from each group won and claimed a small prize. The real reward is seen as regulars at Senior Neighbors enjoy the sounds of “youngsters” laughing. Misconceptions about generational stereotypes fade away over coffee, cookies, and a friendly game of bingo. The only thing missing was a group rendition of the song about the farmer and his dog.
A Community Presence
Students of Unity High are making a difference in the community as well. Their actions are typically behind the scenes and can go unnoticed. They have a collection bottles for spare change which is donated to Alpha Family Center. Each year they help with Gilda’s Laugh Fest. Last year they assisted with Flat River Outreach Ministries’ Christmas Distribution set-up.
While their school setting is not traditional these students have a tradition of looking for ways to help the Lowell community. Usually these efforts are done without looking for or wanting recognition.