by Bob Merikangas
We at Riderwood are certainly aware of the services provided to us by the many staff workers here. However, some of us are not aware of the high school students who come here to provide services to us, and do not receive any pay for what is called student service learning hours.
Judy Felsenfeld, our Volunteer Program Coordinator, has an information sheet that tells us: “Riderwood is an approved volunteer site for service-learning hours for the Montgomery and Prince George’s county school systems.” The prospective student volunteers fill out application forms, and come for an interview. The students must also have two recommendation forms by a teacher, or counselor, or community sponsor, and have parental consent. It is expected that the students will reflect on their experiences, link their service with their learning in school classes, and be able to apply what they have been learning to their activities in the “real world.”
“The feedback from our students has been very positive,” Judy says. “One student shared that she had played her violin for a room full of Arbor Ridge residents. Another student said she learned a lot working in rehab and the staff there are so nice.”
Many students here learn from helping the staff at Arbor Ridge, in services to the residents there, such as pushing wheelchairs, and also just in friendly visits. In addition to serving at the extended care facility, some do tasks such as filing papers, cubby stuffing, and helping out at special events on campus, or on special trips.
The students get a volunteer handbook, and have some training to prepare for their volunteer service. Most service is during the summer. When they finish their year, there is an exit interview. Most students come from the nearby High Point High School, but some come from other local public high schools and also from private schools. Each year about 25 students come. Some students serving as volunteers have relatives here, both residents and employees.