Grayhawk Elementary students learn lessons from older generations

Grayhawk Elementary School students with Vi at Silverstone residents in the Intergenerational Leadership Development program. (Submitted photos)

Grayhawk Elementary School students receive valuable lessons outside the classroom as they take trips to visit Vi at Silverstone residents.

The north Scottsdale senior living community participates in the Intergenerational Leadership Development program, a new program with Grayhawk Elementary School that took place in the spring, according to a press release describing a student field trip on April 29 to Vi at Silverstone that included meeting mentors and having one-on-one interviews.

For several weeks leading up to summer vacation, the students were tasked to create vision boards and share what success meant to them after spending time with the older generation.

Vi at Silverstone residents mentor Grayhawk Elementary students.

More than 50 sixth grade students were matched with the residents of Vi at Silverstone for the mentorship program.

Based on the students’ “dream occupation,” they are paired with their elders who may have been in the profession that they are considering. The program not only educates the youth on the aging population, but it helps the students learn from older generations and vice versa.

“The program was a great success and Vi at Silverstone plans to continue the partnership next year,” said Grayhawk Elementary Principal Michelle Pavlik during a recent phone interview.

She described the partnership between Vi at Silverstone and Grayhawk Elementary that started from a conversation about what it would be like to unite the sixth graders with the senior residents so they could form a relationship with the older generation.

She said this is the second year the program has been fully-implemented since the idea began three years ago.

“It turned out to be an amazing thing. It was wonderful to me,” she said, noting how students learned such things as maintaining eye contact and having a good hand shake.

What could have been an intimidating experience, she said the children “jumped in and took charge.” She said the program is the next phase of an Ambassador of Peace program that students participate in that begins in the fifth grade where fifth graders even attend a leadership camp.

Last year, in the end of the school year, I took them up to a camp. It was all about team building and leadership; what is expected for the coming year and responsibility for the school,” Ms. Pavlik said of the Ambassador program that is a prelude to the intergenerational lesson at Vi.

“After students meet with the older ones, they also did a survey for all things ambassador,” she said. “They walked away with something.”

Some of the things students took with them was the value of community service, which she witnesses every morning as she watches older students stationed at the different doors welcoming others, especially younger students, with high-fives or telling them to “have a great day.”

While Ms. Pavlik said students are helped to combat “being shy and putting yourself out there,” Tammy Jo Granado, of Vi, said the older ones are benefited as well while they combat being anxious to interact with the youths.

“There’s numerous benefits to any intergenerational program,” Ms. Granado said, noting the sense of purpose, value of giving back.

She said about 23 residents volunteered for the Leadership Development program and enjoyed sharing information about career paths they took with the children they were paired with who had similar career interests.

Grayhawk Elementary students interact with Vi at Silverstone residents.

Some of the careers the children inquired about from the seniors included business students wanting to know information about starting a business; becoming nurses, physicians, architects entrepreneurs, even military positions were “quite popular with the children.”

Ms. Granado said the residents, some of whom were anxious to meet the children, are ready for the next set since they thoroughly enjoy the interaction.

“It is heartwarming to see. In general, that interaction goes a long way,” she said, noting that many may not have grandchildren or have not seen their own for a while due to distance if they live out-of-state.

Something else she said was amazing was that the children learned the art of communication, which is lost with the younger generations who are dependent on technology for communication.

“It is all about communication which is so vital in being a successful leader,” she said about what the senior residents instill in the young ones.

On the other hand, she said the young people share their knowledge about technology in communication since many of the older ones may not have access to technology.

“Many kids took away the opportunity to have the face-to-face conversations and feel good rather than being through email. That was a big piece that we feel we walked away with,” Ms. Pavlik said.

She and Ms. Granado agreed that another big lesson the children learned was having myths dispelled about aging and could see for themselves while talking to the older ones what it was like being an older adult.

Ms. Granado said the children had a better knowledge about the population and understand why some of the residents may require oxygen tanks, or why the students needed to talk louder.

Independent Newsmedia News Services Specialist Delarita Ford can be reached by e-mail at

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