The Owen Brown Middle School pupils who come each month to visit senior citizens at nearby Owen Brown Place bring hugs, prizes for bingo games and memories.
"These young people bring back beautiful past memories, of when (the elderly) were children and when they were raising their children," said Vivi Provine, who manages the program for the frail elderly at Owen Brown Place, a senior citizens housing complex.
Twelve-year-old Danny Baumwald's older brother and sister had been involved in the middle school project, so when he came to Owen Brown, he wanted to carry on the tradition.
Last year in sixth grade, he won a dance contest at the senior center with a lively lady who could still kick up her heels. When he returned for his first visit this fall, his dance partner called out in recognition, flung open her arms and enveloped him in a hug.
Danny and his friend Joe Haymes, 12, both seventh-graders, applied and won approval from gifted and talented resource teacher Barbara Kleinknecht-Hall to coordinate the program this year.
"It's nice to help the senior citizens and be withthem because they don't get to see kids a lot," Danny said. Joe said, "They really don't get much attention and they need friends."
Four different pupils accompany Danny, Joe and Kleinknecht-Hall on eachmonthly visit.
The youths arrive in late morning, share crafts oractivities with the senior citizens, have lunch and play bingo or another game after lunch.
"We pick a table and learn about each other," Joe said.
Danny and Joe are responsible for planning the activities, including the annual "Senior Prom," complete with dance music by the school band, hors d'oeuvres and dessert, which was started in 1990 by Nicole Holland, who has since graduated from the middle school.
Staging the prom will be more difficult this year because the PTA and school discretionary funds that financed the dance in the pasthave been cut back. "But we're going to do it," Kleinknecht-Hall encouraged her students. "We'll find a way."
Visits to the senior center are not just an easy exit from class. The pupils must make up thework they miss, which for Danny means catching up on science, Spanish, math and part of language arts; for Joe, science, social studies, math and part of reading.
The Owen Brown Place program for frail elderly who are mildly impaired is one of three operated by the countyOffice on Aging. Similar day programs are offered in Ellicott City and Glenelg, but the Owen Brown pupils visit only the Owen Brown Placeresidents.
The senior citizens in the program attend an average of three days a week, and Owen Brown Place usually has 25 to 35 participants a day, Provine said.
The program is designed to help older people avoid entering nursing homes prematurely.
"These young people really add quality to their lives," she said. "The seniors look forward so much to having them come."