Leah and Laura – both students at Gustavus College in St. Peter, both studying psychology, both have warm smiles and sparkling eyes, and both have names that start with that start with an L. Leah is volunteering at the Eagan center and is passionate about dance and creative movement. Laura is volunteering at the Hastings center and is passionate about art, pottery in particular.
Laura and Leah have been volunteering with us since early June and I had a chance to sit down with them this week to gather feedback about their Lifeworks experience. Neither young woman had previous experience spending time with adults with disabilities, and both said early in the conversation that they were surprised about how easy it is to build relationships with clients at Lifeworks.
Every Wednesday Laura goes with a group of Hastings clients and staff to observe birds in a local park. Earlier this year the Hastings center was awarded a grant from Cornell University to do bird observation and data collection for the summer. Laura said that there are 16 birds that the group is assigned to look for using binoculars, eyes, and ears. She said they each created bird books and studied bird calls, it seemed like a big task in the beginning but now the members of the group know all sixteen birds both by sight and call. “Amazing,” she said.
Laura has also been impressed by the level of creative talent at the Hastings center. “The art is remarkable,” she said. “There is a dragon mosaic that one person made that is so intricate and beautiful.” Next week she will be going to the Dakota county fair with the client artists to see their work be displayed for the public, hopefully with a blue ribbon attached.
Leah has been moving through the Eagan center, spending time in each program room, finding out what makes that room and its members unique and different. She told me she was surprised at how easy it was to build relationships with our clients. I asked her why and she said, “Every one is so friendly, so welcoming, their personalities are so genuine. This is refreshing and different from other experiences I have had with new groups of people.” I said I need examples and she laughed,
“Well, Shirley is happy if I will just play a bean bag game with her. Shirley’s laugh is contagious, if she laughs I find myself laughing too. Or Shannon, she is so sweet and warm hearted, she loves it if I will just spend time talking and really listening to her. I am struck by the fact that it is so simple to make someone happy, I can’t help but feel happy too when I am here.”
August is upon us and the Gustavus ladies will be heading back to college soon. Laura will be a junior and Leah a senior. Both say they plan to come back when college allows, both say their time here was life changing and has helped them clarify where they are headed in their career path. Laura would like to be a social worker and Leah hopes to get her PhD. in psychology. After being with us for the summer they both say emphatically that they will direct their careers to work with people with disabilities. Thank you Leah and Laura, it has been our pleasure to spend summer days with you. The freckles and tans will fade, the warm days will come to an end but memories of friendship will stay with us forever.