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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

CEJA 2024: Connecting All Generations

WIS juniors Sofía Vakis and Celeste Martin were awarded the Community, Equity and Justice Award (CEJA). The award was created in 2020 by a WIS class of 2020 family  to encourage and raise awareness about social justice initiatives at WIS. Sponsored by the International-Mindedness, Diversity and Inclusion (IDI) department, the CEJA award is an opportunity for students who are passionate about challenging inequality to bring their ideas to life.  

Vakis and Martin decided to collaborate with Senior Sunrise Living, a senior living facility company, and create podcasts from interviews with the residents to share their experiences with younger listeners. Their goal is to increase crossover between generations and reduce negative bias against the elderly community.

“Being able to provide a [story] space for the senior community and connection with younger generations could be really special because not many people have that opportunity,” Vakis said.

Vakis and Martin have both had personal experiences with senior citizens that influenced their decision to pursue this project.

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“I remembered this project that I had done a few years ago, where I interviewed our neighbor, who’s 97 years old,” Martin said. “He talked about his process of moving into the neighborhood. It was extremely interesting, and you could tell that he, as much as I, gained a lot from the sharing of this story.”

At times, stories can be lengthy and circuitous, but Vakis promises audiences will learn about interesting things by listening to the podcast.

“One of my favorite things is talking with my grandparents and asking them things about their life, and hearing their stories,” she said. “They’re always so much fun, and I just thought, not everyone has that.”

Not only do the cross-generational interactions help the elderly share and recall experiences, they also help younger people gain more perspective and advice on life.

Vakis and Martin hope this connection will help strengthen the community, encourage positive exchanges between generations and reduce depression and loneliness in senior citizens.

“We really want to emphasize the fact that we’re gaining as much as they are,” Martin said. “It’s not just service for them by providing an outlet, we’re also really gaining and learning from the stories because there is so much to say about someone’s life.”

The interviews with senior residents would eventually be posted on social media. “One of our long-term goals would be making some sort of social media account like on TikTok to share little snippets of podcasts,” Martin said. The next steps involve completing the plan and meeting with staff at the senior living center. Vakis and Martin hope that once this project hits the ground running, WIS students will be encouraged to get involved and help with the interviewing process.

“We’re just finalizing our agreement, and getting those interviews started individually with us,” Martin said. “And then eventually, once we have a few interviews, see how that’s going and we see how much interest there is, we’re hopefully going to be able to set up a formal sign-up process to include other students.”

To engage the school community, Vakis and Martin are considering establishing an official club at WIS. Since they are juniors, others  could eventually take over once they graduate, involving more people in the community and continuing their efforts.

“A club can help organize and manage who wants to help and how they want to help,” Vakis said. “A lot of people have already told me that they are interested in helping, which I’m really happy to hear. We just need a little bit of time to set it up first, and then we’ll be more than happy to include everyone who is interested.” 

The CEJA funding, which includes a $200-$400 grant, will most likely be allocated to the equipment needed to film and record interviews. “The funds could be more towards the editing side,” Vakis said. “So getting the editing software that has a monthly subscription would be a good place to start. Or it could be used for a microphone or other materials.”

All in all, Vakis and Martin hope this project will spark new connections between WIS students and the Sunrise Senior Living community.

“[Our] hope is that by sharing senior’s stories with younger generations, teenagers will gain a new appreciation for senior citizens and be inspired to listen to the senior community’s stories,” Vakis said.

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