Bona Grad Students Spread Holiday Joy to Seniors

HNP Communications Around the Province

ALLEGANY, N.Y. —  What began as a laborious class project ended up as a life-affirming lesson for students in a grad school class at St. Bonaventure University.

Students in Evelyn Sabina’s Foundations of Literacy class spent countless hours last semester creating spoken-word CDs for residents and clients of local nursing homes and senior centers. Their reward was receiving heartfelt thanks and a holiday serenade from people whose lives they touched in a way they never imagined.

“Seeing the smiles on the senior citizens’ faces when we delivered the CDs made the project completely worth it,” said Melissa Storie, who will complete her master’s degree in childhood literacy in May. “As we left the Linwood Center, the seniors were singing ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ in unison. That was all it took to bring tears to my eyes.”

I think all of the students were tearing up when they started singing,” said Della Nickerson, activities specialist at Allegany’s Linwood Adult Daycare Center, operated by the county’s Department of Aging. “Just having the students visit meant so much to them, especially at this time of year, during the holidays.”

The experience had a profound effect on the students, Sabina said.

“I think it was a real eye-opener,” she said. “We often tend to forget about people in senior homes, so the folks there really appreciated the work the students did and getting to visit with them. The students said they want to go back and visit again, or volunteer in any way they can.”

With financial and technological assistance from the university’s Journey Project, Reading Center, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, and Office of Technology Services, students recorded everything from Scripture readings to poetry and short stories, using downloadable software called Audacity to create 21 different compact discs.

Twelve copies of each CD — voiced by class members and three SBU faculty members — were produced and delivered in December to the Linwood Center, St.Elizabeth’s Motherhouse, The Pines in Olean, Eden Heights, Cuba Memorial Hospital, The Waters in Allegany and Salamanca, Hinsdale’s Underwood Manor, and Portville Manor.

“We have some ladies who are visually-impaired and I watched their faces as they were listening to some of the stories” the students recorded, said Linwood’s Nickerson. “They just loved it. We have one woman who usually sits by herself in the hallway, very lonely, and when she put the headphones on and started to listen to the stories, she started smiling.”

Thanks to money provided by The Reading Center, Sabina was able to purchase three USB microphones that allowed the students to do their recording at home on their computers. The software program enabled them to edit their recordings, Sabina said.

SBU’s Technology Services burned the CDs, and the students spent a few hours in class packaging and organizing them for delivery. Sabina said the project helped the literacy students develop their enunciation, expression and read-aloud skills — and taught them plenty about patience.

“It was rather tedious at times,” Storie said, “but once I got familiar with the Audacity program it became easier.”