Last year, The Granbury School District contacted Waterview Senior Living to discuss a unique program they were launching with a local elementary school 4th grade ESL (English as Second Language) class. The goal was to help students learn conversational English.
Waterview’s lifestyle director, Laura Bush, knew residents would want to be a part of this program. “Residents quickly came forward to volunteer their time,” Bush said, “It turned out to be a very special time for our residents and the students.”
To get the program started, residents visited the school in mid-October for a get-to-know-you chat. The school’s ESL teacher, Gwen Newton, was surprised by how many Waterview residents attended. As talk ensued, two students seemed eager to raise their hands to ask and answer questions. As the Waterview group was leaving, Newton, with tears in her eyes informed them that one child had spoken out loud for the first time since school started. While residents knew this program would be life-changing, they had no idea that it happen on the first day.
“I always come away from every ESL session feeling and a sense of actually helping those kids,” Carrol, a Waterview resident, said.
For 20 minutes, one day a week, Waterview residents gather in their movie theater to video chat with the Granbury students on devices provided by the school district. The participants on both sides of the screen exchange conversation, photos, read books and more in both languages.
“I love that our Waterview buddies are willing to spend time with our students,” Newton said, “It has taught me that we all have something to give; we all can make a difference in this world. This program has made me aware of how much relationships help in the learning process. I look forward to Thursdays and seeing how the faces of both the seniors and the students light up when they see each other on the screen.”
In December, residents joined the entire ESL class for a pizza party which allowed the students to introduce their senior buddies to classmates. The energy in the room was electric, and a student who was reluctant to speak grabbed the microphone to share how this experience has helped him.
“I remember how quiet the kids got when he spoke because he does not speak much in class,” Newton said.
“He’s a very sensitive student, and his mother has informed us how much he is enjoying this school year because he feels so loved. I am certain his Waterview buddy has played a big part in building his confidence.”