Chris Johnson, a recent graduate of Campion Academy, found himself working in a place he’d never expected—a nursing home. Granted, the Green House Homes at Mirasol, in Loveland, Colorado, aren’t your typical nursing home, but Chris had no experience and wasn’t even sure what the job entailed when he agreed to give ASSIST a try.
ASSIST is a grant-funded program managed by Southern Adventist University that pairs students with senior citizens to build relationships and offer assistance. Campion has participated in the program since 2008.
Chris spent two hours a day, five days a week with the residents, talking with them, going for walks, watching TV, or reading to them from the newspaper. “It became a natural friendship over time; it wasn’t like I was working,” he adds. “Some of the elders were really sad to see me go. One of them said, ‘You’re like a grandson to me.’”
“My last job [at Campion] wasn’t working out, and this was the last job available for me,” says Chris. “If you came to me before I had the nursing home job, I would tell you I didn’t want it. But once I got there, it was way more enjoyable than I thought.”
During the 2015-2016 school year, Campion was one of 151 schools qualifying to receive the ASSIST grant. “Over 1,900 families committed to Seventh-day Adventist Christian education will be impacted by as much as $2.4 million in tuition assistance… And, through a practiced attitude of service on the part of the students, as many as 2,700 senior citizens are served currently through this grant,” Southern’s website reports.
Working for ASSIST has provided an average of 10-11 Campion students with meaningful jobs each year, and in turn, the ASSIST grant provides 80% of student wages. Campion fundraises the remaining amount.
Student Labor Coordinator Toni Odenthal explains that student jobs like ASSIST “allow Campion students to work off part of their school bill and also teach them the skills needed to be good workers and thrive in the workplace.”
“I grew socially by doing this,” Chris adds. “I kept a relationship with a house full of people, which is something I don’t usually do. I’m usually not a talker, but over there I learned to enjoy it. If I ever do any volunteering, I’d look to help with elderly again.”
Jenny Sigler teaches English at Campion Academy