Lifestyle

Lakeland Elementary 5th-graders perk up senior mentors

Mark Romanivko, Hakeem Salahud-Din and Anthony Nguyen, all fifth-graders at Lakeland Elementary School, pet a snake during the Roots and Wings mentoring program at the Federal Way Senior Center. - Margo Hoffman/The Mirror
Mark Romanivko, Hakeem Salahud-Din and Anthony Nguyen, all fifth-graders at Lakeland Elementary School, pet a snake during the Roots and Wings mentoring program at the Federal Way Senior Center.
— image credit: Margo Hoffman/The Mirror

Federal Way seniors like a little spunk in their lives — and they have found it in fifth-graders.

As part of the Roots and Wings program, members of the Federal Way Senior Center mentor students from nearby Lakeland Elementary two days a month. Nine students and nine seniors participate in the program every other Tuesday.

“These baby boomers are getting older, but they’re still vital, and they have a lot of energy and they want to give back,” said Tracy Oster, one of the program’s creators.

The time is mostly spent chatting and participating in fun activities or arts and crafts. Last week, the students listened to a presentation on proper pet care and got the opportunity to play with a pet snake. On other visits, the children practiced horse-roping and creating rockets from two-liter bottles. Soon, they will participate in a community garden project and learn how to grow produce for charity.

The program began as a Federal Way Advancing Leadership project last year, said Oster, who is also the executive director of the Federal Way Communities in Schools Foundation. The Communities in Schools Foundation began sponsoring the project this year to keep it going.

Vicky Drury, the counselor at Lakeland, said that the students’ behavior has improved since they’ve been participating in the program.

The goal of the program is not to provide academic support, but to build relationships between the seniors and the children, Oster said.

The senior citizens as mentors provide students with a different type of relationship than they might get from younger adults. The older adults are very patient, and it’s easy to make them laugh.

Les Akers, a member of the senior center and a mentor, said the Roots and Wings program is a great opportunity for the seniors, whose motto is “play, learn and serve.”

Akers said he hopes the seniors provide the children with a safe place to go after school where there are adults who care about them.

“It’s like having built-in grandparents for them,” Oster said.

“They’re just here to enjoy the kids,” she said. “What a great gift to give these kids. It’s like, somebody’s going to adore me for the next hour-and-a-half.”

Contact Margo Hoffman: mhoffman@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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