The De La Salle Sweet Readers program started in 2015 and every year, with help from two trained and dedicated faculty who serve as facilitators, twenty 8th graders take the subway up to the Jewish Home to engage with residents living with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.
It’s a half an hour commute after a full day of school and yet De La Salle Sweet Readers and their humble, generous and gracious facilitators shine at the nursing home as if it was the start of a brand new day.
“I always witness that the students definitely receive a life-time experience through this program. Their thoughts on volunteer service change from “I make them feel at purpose by helping out” to “I have gained so much knowledge, wisdom and love from working together with the partners.” Soobin L., Facilitator
“The challenge I faced as a Sweet Reader is that I had barely interacted with elders before. Although it was awkward at first, after more experience, I gained more confidence….Sweet Readers has taught me to be more patient and the best thing that happened to me during this program is making a new friend, my adult partner, Joel.” – Sweet Reader Mario
“I have become more confident and outgoing” – Sweet Reader Alyssa
“I can be more caring and it has taught me how to engage in conversations.” – Sweet Reader May
“I will keep in mind that everyone with any disadvantage has a reason behind it, and so to keep my judgements at bay.” – Sweet Reader Lily
“What I am taking away from this experience is not to be afraid to try new things especialy when it comes to helping others.” – Sweet Reader Fiordalise
“The Sweet Readers program was a blessing to have. I can comfort people when they are lonely… I can apply this with my grandmother…I will take away from this experience the love [Ms. Thelma] had shown to me, and I will distribute it to the upcoming generation.” – Sweet Reader Christopher
“It helped me create bonds with older people and helped me learn how to talk with others.” – Sweet Reader Makena
“The best thing that happened to me was when I saw Ms. Carroll happy to see me.” – Sweet Reader Gwendolyn
“Because of the Sweet Readers program, I not only learned how to talk to the elderly, but how to talk to people in general.” – Sweet Reader Alyssa
“By participating in the Sweet Readers program I was able to become more aware of Alzheimer’s and dementia. From this program I was also able to learn to become more confident and open as I worked with new people.” – Sweet Reader Fuod
“Going to Sweet Readers has by far been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I was able to develop many skills that I will use in my everyday li[fe] and in general. I wa able to form a bond with someone I would’ve never thought of. Sweet Readers has helped me and was one learning and fun experience.” – Sweet Reader Dechen
De La Salle Academy is a very special school. To gain admittance there are three requirements: A student must come from a low-income family, have high intellect and be kind. These combined qualities lend themselves especially well to Sweet Readers work and De La Salle Sweet Readers and their adult facilitators have demonstrated tremendous depth of character, empathy, adaptability and creativity. We are so blessed to work with this caring and committed community and to be able to bridge them with the lovely and dedicated staff and residents of the Jewish Home. This community has taught us the value of kindness and humility.
By the end of the current school year, De La Salle Sweet Readers will have participated in a total of 72 program sessions with each De La Salle Sweet Reader engaging on average 19.5 hrs./school year and each adult engaging, on average, 18 hours/school year. The De La Salle Sweet Readers program became self-sustaining within three years.
With special thanks to Brother Brian, Angel Gonzalez, Soobin Lim, Sean McCaughley and Dafna Schmerin.