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“Different Than Anything I’ve Done Before”: Junior Community Days Gives Students Reminder of Totality of ‘Human Experience’

Junior year is an important one in a student’s high school career. Classes can intensify. Taking the ACT becomes a priority in order to be able to apply to preferred colleges. At Rockhurst, students also experience multiple formational experiences–most notably Kairos. But one other also aims to leave a lasting impression: Junior Community Days.

This event gives students two different experiences. One has them spend part of the day interacting with senior citizens. The second is a day focused on team-building. Both aspects are deemed important enough that students don’t attend their normal classes on these days. This year, Junior Community Days took place Nov. 6 and 7.

Students started their day in the Rose Theatre where they learned where they would be going that day. For the students going to retirement homes, they had a short lesson on how to delicately approach and socialize with the elderly, as many of them have some form of dementia. Then, students dispersed to one of five different senior living facilities around the Kansas City area: Kingswood, Armour Oaks, St. Anthony, Claridge Court or Mission Chateau.

When the juniors first arrived at the retirement home, they immediately sat down with an elderly person and began socializing. Students would rotate to different tables and talk to multiple different people. 

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“It is our hope students and elderly are able to recognize themselves in one another,” said Director of Ignatian Service Alan Ratermann. “We all have hopes, dreams, deeply held values, and interests. By listening and accompanying the elderly, our students gain insight into the wider lens of the human experience.”

After about 45 minutes, students moved over to the assisted living side of their respective facility. The assisted living areas are for people with some form of degenerative mental disorder, which is any disorder that takes away from an essential brain function. The juniors met with them in small groups for a brief time before participating in their exercise time. The exercises consisted of simple arm and leg movements, which took up the remainder of the time there.

The students who went to the retirement homes returned to Rockhurst at the end of the day. Upon arrival, they were handed a reflection sheet for them to fill out. Then, they got into small groups where they shared their experiences before being dismissed for the day.

“The whole thing was a lot different than anything I’ve done before,” said junior Jack McLane. “It kinda gave me a whole new perspective on some of the struggles people have in their lives.”

On the day the activity was focused on team-building, the students were taken to Unity Village, a retreat center in the village of the same name that is situated between Lee’s Summit and Kansas City. The students started their day inside, where they held group discussions and did various team-building activities.

Then, they were given a short break before lunch. Most students spent their time exploring the 12-hundred acre property.

After lunch, everyone moved outside, where they participated in more team-building activities, such as trying to retrieve an item from the middle of a circle with nothing but a rope.

“The day at Unity Village was good,” said junior Kingston Del Cid. “We were able to build more of the brotherhood bond that Rockhurst is all about.”

The Junior Community Days are meant to strengthen the relationship between Rockhurst students, and  connect Rockhurst students to their community.

“The experience, engagement, and interaction with other people gives them the opportunity to consider parts of what a community experience is about,” said Assistant Principal for Student Life Chris Bosco.

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About the Contributor
Ted Truebner, Staff Reporter
This is my second year writing for Prep News. I originally joined newspaper to add on to my college resume, however, I stayed in the class because I liked the freedom I received in choosing my own stories and being able to write freely. In this class, I am forced to go out and find information by myself, opposed to other classes. I also enjoy getting an insider view on events going on at the school. Outside of newspaper, a lot of my time is spent playing lacrosse, as I play all year for the school and club teams. During the summer, I work as a lifeguard at Fairway pool. After high school, I plan to either take the political route or go to journalism school, however, I have not completely made up my mind on what route I want to take.
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