GOSHEN, N.Y. (Dec. 11, 2015) — Junior Leadership Orange (JLO) students recently spread holiday cheer to residents of the Glen Arden continuing care retirement community in Goshen.

The 36 eighth-grade students, who represent all Orange County school districts, meet monthly at Orange Ulster BOCES. They used their December session to visit Glen Arden, making cookies, holiday ornaments and gingerbread houses, as well as to play bingo and take part in a holiday sing-a-long with residents.

“It’s all about volunteerism,” said Karolyn Thompson, Leadership Orange executive director. “These students are Orange County’s leaders of tomorrow. To see them spend time with these elderly people is just wonderful.”

As music played, students chatted with residents as they worked together to finish their holiday activities.

“It’s fun to hang out and make these people happy,” said Julia Upeslacis, a Chester School District student.

“We get to bond with people we normally wouldn’t be with and get to know more about a bigger part of society,” added Conor Borthwick, a Warwick Valley School District student.

Students even spoke of “the importance of community.”

“We learn ‘volunteerism,’ and why we all should give back to our community,” said Kevin Pinho, a Monroe-Woodbury School District student.

Added Olivia Ferara, a Middletown School District student: “I know I’m doing something fun for the community and putting smiles on peoples’ faces.”

Tuxedo School District student Kaitlyn Ferri felt the older population can show younger people, like her, new things.

“I really like working with other people,” Ferri said. “I like that they’re teaching me things I didn’t know. Now, I really know how to play bingo.”

Glen Arden Vice President and Executive Director Maureen Torelli was happy to bring together Glen Arden residents and JLO students.

“To see the connections between these generations of people is very gratifying,” said Torelli. “Everyone benefits from gatherings like this.”

Thompson plans a school year of JLO activities at different locales, each designed to have a particular teachable moment for students. The JLO application process is a competitive one, she noted, with 90 applicants for only 36 spots this school year. A student’s application must show demonstrated traditional and non-traditional leadership experience.

“We are setting a strong foundation for when these kids enter high school,” Thompson added as she watched cookies being frosted and bells put on handcrafted ornaments. “Hopefully these kids will go back home to their parents and tell them what a difference they made to these folks today. These are kids who really care, and hopefully Glen Arden is as impressed with our group, as we are with theirs.”

Glen Arden resident Betty  Moore talks about  gingerbread house success with Warwick Valley School District eighth-grader Conor Borthwick, bottom left, and Kevin Pinho, a Monroe-Woodbury School District eighth-grader, along with eighth-graders Kaitlyn Ferri of the Tuxedo School District, back left, and Julia Upeslacis of the Chester School District.

Anjoule LeLaMartin of the Newburgh School District talks about cookie frosting options with Glen Arden residents Esther and Martin Schwager during Junior Leadership Orange’s recent visit to Glen Arden.