Connecting with the Community
Posted 03/13/2015 04:00PM

Often our local Global Service Program (GSP) groups are overlooked due to the wide reach of our other groups, but these initiatives are crucial to the people they serve and help the School’s connection with our community. For many years, a group of students has spent time with groups of senior citizens from Montagnola and other nearby villages, sharing their stories over cups of tea. Called Tea Time, the activity gave students time to practice their Italian and learn about other generations. A few years ago, the location shifted to a local nursing home, Al Pagnolo, where students and residents played games, cooked, and made art together.

This year, the group’s advisors, Cori Shea and Zuleika Tipisimana, decided to try something different and bring back the original model of Tea Time by having half the group meet with locals in Montagnola while the others continued the work at Al Pagnolo. “I felt it was important to bring the local element back to this group,” Cori said. The name was changed to Intergenerations to stress this exchange that is rare nowadays.

When Cori arrived at TASIS in 2013, she often took the time to speak with the people she saw regularly on her walks around Montagnola. Many of the locals, particularly the more elderly, were surprised that Cori spoke Italian and made the effort to form a relationship with them. She saw this as an opportunity for her GSP group to begin building connections with the greater community.

Intergenerations pairs two students with one Montagnola resident. Once a month they meet at Osteria Donada in Montagnola for coffee and conversation or card games. In December, the students decorated cookies and sang songs with their residents. If the weather is nice, the groups might go for a walk as well. “I encourage the students to ask their resident about their youth, their families, their lives and to tell them about their own. Often the locals share their worries and the students cheer them up. It is a great opportunity for our students to spend some time outside of TASIS.”

The owner of Osteria Donada, Sebastiano, has been impressed with the relationships growing between the students and residents. “It is important to put their two realities together,” he said. “Once in Montagnola, everybody used to say hello to one another, but not so much now. This will also do a bit to help the relationship between TASIS and the locals.”

All students must be in at least Italian 3 to join, with the exception of two who meet with an English-speaking resident. During their meetings when they aren’t with their residents, the students write reminders and cards for their resident as well as brainstorm conversation topics that might spark a meaningful chat. In the future, Cori and Zuleika hope to talk with the students about the sensitivities that surround aging, and expand the group to include even more Montagnolans.

More photographs: Intergenerations Gallery on TASIS SmugMug

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