GOLETA, Calif. - A recipe for success comes in the form of work experience for students at Santa Barbara Middle School. This is the school's 'Community Service Week,' a years-long tradition pairing students with local businesses, non-profits and other participating agencies in Goleta and Santa Barbara.
Your NewsChannel team caught up with four ninth graders Tuesday afternoon at Heritage House in Goleta. Some of the residents have Alzheimer's, dementia or other memory care issues.
Rev. Edgar Mohorko, Activities Manager for Heritage House, said the residents love having the students there.
"They see any young people come in and they get excited," said Mohorko. "It's pretty thrilling to see them engage each other, talk to each other."
Jorge Soto, Maeve Jaeger, Annika Kisner and Vaughn Evers said they chose Heritage House this year to do their 25 hours of community service. Last year, it was Lazy Acres and Kyle's Kitchen.
Soto said one of the best skills he's learning is how to talk to strangers.
"I chose it because I feel like it would be a good experience for me because, a new experience, getting out of my comfort zone and it's pretty close to my house," said Soto.
Jaeger said she loves sharing stories and taking the residents back to the time when they were teens.
"We're going to be going on bike rides with them so they can experience that again which is really cool," said Jaeger. "And, we've been doing a lot of different activities like crafts and singing, dancing. A ton of cool stuff."
Kisner said she enjoys getting the experience of "working a real job" and hearing about the residents' different paths in life.
"In the morning we did a yoga class and a singalong which is really cool to just see like how happy they were to just connect and be a part of something."
Evers said he hoped to inspire the residents to get a little more exercise while out in the courtyard area.
"Can you tell that they enjoy you being here?" I asked.
"Yeah, I can," said Evers. "They look a lot like sad when they're kinda here but it's really cool to see how they brighten up when other people come around to help them."
"We've actually been in business for 40 years," said Marco Andrade, Dean of Students and Community. "This program is just about as old as the school. But they're doing more community service. It's about them getting out into the nonprofit sector and learning what that type of important work is and connecting with that."
The program helps students build their required community service hours ahead of high school.