Rollins Students, Mayflower Residents Share Common Focus in Collaborative Partnership

January 03, 2011

Mayflower resident Jean Lunin and Rollins student Roxanne Szal (Class of 2013)

Mayflower resident Jean Lunin and Rollins student Roxanne Szal (Class of 2013)

Bridging the Generation Gap

Rollins student Roxanne Szal (Class of 2013) and Mayflower Retirement Community resident Jean Lunin have a lot in common. Both are self-assured, assertive, support the same political candidates, love traveling and are only children. But, with more than a half century age difference between them, it’s likely their paths may never have crossed.

However, thanks to a partnership between Rollins College and The Mayflower, new relationships are being cultivated on both campuses – bridging generations through the love of learning. This year, the intergenerational initiative included two classes: Justice: Good and Evil – an honors RCC class seminar that explored life experiences and choices as well as justice issues; and Memory and the Photograph, which focused on the role that images and photographs play in defining memories. 

Jean and Roxanne met in the photo class, where students worked one-on-one with 20 Mayflower seniors to create a visual memoir book focusing on various aspects of the residents’ lives.  In addition, the group discussed significant historical photos (e.g., the JFK assassination and President Obama’s inauguration), and explored how your age when an event occurs shapes your memory of it.

“This seminar explored notions of memory through our relationship to various types of photographic images,” said Dawn Roe, assistant professor of art at Rollins. “The integration of psychology and studio art is what made this course collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature – and with the local community members involved it offered students a rich contrast of other perspectives.”

“We don’t have the opportunity for a lot of intergenerational learning in our culture because we segment ourselves – and we’re missing out,” said Jennifer Queen, associate professor of psychology at Rollins. “It was an enriching experience for both the students and seniors because they served as peers and mentors to each other.”

Bringing History to Life

Rollins student Melissa Manley (Class of 2013) visits Billie Van Horn at The Mayflower

Rollins student Melissa Manley (Class of 2013)
visits Billie Van Horn at The Mayflower

For Rollins student Melissa Manley (Class of 2013), the photography class enabled her to see history through a different lens. She and Mayflower resident Billie Van Horn worked together on a “Memory Book” that displays pictures of Billie and her mother, as well as period photos from each decade of their lives. The goal of the project – which was compiled in an online photo gallery and printed – is to draw parallels and show dramatic changes in innovation and culture through the years.

“My mother was born in 1888 and died in 1986, so she went from using a horse and buggy to seeing a man land on the moon,” said Billie. “My father died when I was an infant, so my mother was left to raise four children on her own during the Great Depression. The way she experienced life was much different – and harder – than the way I did. This project is a tribute to her life.” 

For Melissa, listening to Billie’s memories about growing up during the Depression brings history to life. “I learned not only about the historical side of the photos, but also the emotional side,” she said.

The endeavor is equally fulfilling from Billie’s perspective. “Melissa brought such enthusiasm, creativity and technological savvy to this project,” she added. “I couldn’t and wouldn’t have wanted to do this project without her.”

 “When we shared experiences together, the seniors looked back and we looked forward, but together we learned a lot from each other,” said Rollins student Lucas Hernandez (Class of 2013). “Although we’ve come from very different backgrounds, this project shows that we’re all on the same life path.”

Rollins students and Mayflower residents work on their Memory Book project

Rollins students and Mayflower residents work on their Memory Book project

Finding Purpose and Meaning

In addition to the Memory Book project, eight Mayflower residents helped Rollins first-year students in a project titled, What Makes My Life Matter? from the RCC course Justice: Good and Evil. The students spent time with their assigned Mayflower partners, with the goal of discovering how ordinary people do extraordinary things with their lives. Their findings were documented in essay form.

“By spending time and interviewing residents, students were able to internalize the factors about what brings richness to lives,” said instructor Marvin Newman, professor of legal studies and communications at Rollins. “From being CIA agents … to serving in the Orange County courthouse during the time of civil rights … to having amazing artistic gifts … these seniors shared their stories to help others understand what really matters in life.”

“The thought-provoking interactions that took place in these classes really resonate with both the students and our residents,” said Mayflower marketing director Jana Ricci (Class of 1980), who was instrumental in working with Rollins’ Office of Community Engagement to bring this lifelong learning initiative to fruition.

Micki Meyer, director of community engagement at Rollins, explained that academic experiences like these are both transactional and transformational. “When we’re young, we spend our time trying to create purpose and meaning in our lives. And when we’re older, we reflect on the purpose and meaning in our lives,” said Micki. “Intergenerational learning enables us to understand and help each other, and we ultimately find that we are more closely linked than we originally thought.”

Meyer feels that the Rollins-Mayflower partnership is an example of service-learning at its best.

“Students understand what they are learning in the classroom because they are able to apply it in a real-world context,” she added.

Animal Kingdom

Rollins student Amy Teixera (Class of 2014), Mayflower resident Carol Service and Annamarie Carlson (Class of 2014) at Animal Kingdom

See  U @ Animal Kingdom

For Mayflower Retirement Community resident Carol Service, the partnership with Rollins College is more than just opportunity to learn new things. It has also been an opportunity to make new friends. And the relationship Carol has developed with her student partners, Annamarie Carlson (Class of 2014) and Amy Teixera (Class of 2014), has extended beyond the classroom.

For example, late last year the three women took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Animal Kingdom, riding a LYNX bus to their destination. “We learned during our interviews with Carol that she loves animals,” said Amy. “Annamarie and I were planning a visit to Animal Kingdom, so we texted Carol to ask if she’d like to go. It wound up being an adventure for all of us and brought us even closer.”

As to what life lessons the two have learned from Carol: They say her philosophy of “paying it forward” was the focal point of their essay.

“Carol’s ability to help others and act genuinely and selflessly comes so naturally to her,” says Amy. “It’s inspiring and makes me want to be a better person.”

For Carol’s part, she wants her new friends to remember the importance of giving back. “Things don’t always go according to plan,” she said. “But, you have to make the best of it, no matter what. Our life becomes more meaningful through giving back to others and through other people enriching our lives.”

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