By Cristian Ponce | Special to the Almanac
Rosener House in Menlo Park has created an outlet for teenagers to help their community.
This adult day care home has given teens the opportunity to interact with adults who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
"It's really a good experience for them because they get to see older people who have some problems associated with growing older," says Barbara Kalt, director of volunteers for the Rosener House. "They find out that they're not real scary and that they're just like everybody else."
Lorenzo Sison, a student at Bellarmine College Prep, started volunteering at the Rosener House to fulfill his community service requirement but after some time realized what troubles the patients were really going through.
"One guy I was talking to said he used to work at NASA," says Lorenzo. "Now he's in a place where he can't really remember. A lot of them are in pretty tough places."
Lorenzo says he loves putting smiles on the faces of the patients, even if it is only temporary.
"I think it's super rewarding that you can be that person, at least just in that moment," he says. "It makes me feel good that I'm impacting the people's lives there."
Ms. Kalt notes says they love all of their volunteers and mentioned that the volunteer who has kept coming back the most has been Pooja Goel, a senior at Castilleja.
"She is a remarkable young woman," Ms. Kalt says. "She tried to think of things she could do to help us fundraise. She had a bake sale at school and she raised money for us. It's something that most teenagers would never even think of, I'm sure."
Pooja began volunteering at Rosener House in the summer of 2011 after she finished eighth grade and her mother insisted she get out of the house to do something productive. She quickly fell in love with going there.
"I just felt really attached to the staff and how much they cared about what they did," Pooja says. "Once I started interacting more with the seniors and talking to them, it was something I never experienced before. Even though they didn't necessarily remember me, they had so much to offer. I've learned so much from them."
She attributes her interest in volunteering at Rosener House to her grandfather, who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
"He passed away when I was in fourth or fifth grade," she says. "Originally I didn't want to volunteer because there were seniors losing their memories, but once I started looking into it and saw what my grandfather had, it definitely played a part of it."
She started a club at her school this past academic year with the purpose of bringing more volunteers to the Rosener House.
Last summer, she says, she spent nearly every day for three months at Rosener House. "I was learning so much. That's when I realized that I wanted to share this with others."
Rosener House is at 500 Arbor Road in Menlo Park. Call (650) 322-0126 for more information.