Class of 2014 Success Stories: Senior Moments

Lauren Feyh graduates as an Outstanding Gerontology Student

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By Julie Carle

Lauren Feyh has had her share of memorable senior moments. She was named the Outstanding Gerontology Student of the Year by the Ohio Association of Gerontology and Education (OAGE). She coordinated an aggressive and engaged volunteer program for the BGSU Gerontology Student Association (GSA), and she conceptualized, organized, curated and implemented a 150-piece intergenerational art exhibit.

The successes during her senior year at BGSU are the results of a young woman who is focused and determined, and who has benefited from the care and encouragement of a dedicated faculty. Feyh of Lewis Center, Ohio, will earn a Bachelor of Science in Gerontology degree from the College of Health and Human Services Dec. 19 and take her enthusiasm, passion and knowledge into the work world of older adults.

“Lauren is an excellent student with a depth of knowledge, curiosity and experience that sets her apart from her peers,” Dr. Charles Stelle, one of her gerontology professors and the GSA advisor, stated in her OAGE nomination. “She demonstrates both an intellectual and interpersonal maturity that made her both an outstanding student and leader.”

The state award recognizes students with a promising career within the field of aging, and “who have shown a commitment to aging through their academic interests, services activities or other involvement around gerontology.”

Feyh exhibited excellence in all three areas. According to Stelle, “Lauren has demonstrated academic achievement that is laudable in its own right.”

She also assumed a leadership role for the student organization as volunteer coordinator, a position she took seriously to help older adults as well as students. The gerontology program at BGSU requires 50 hours of volunteer service to aging organizations before being eligible to complete the required internship. Feyh was aware that many of her peers weren’t sure where they could volunteer, what they could do for service or how to contact the organizations. “I saw it as an opportunity to help students more easily fulfill their volunteer service requirements and to assist residents’ needs at many of the local long-term care facilities,” Feyh explained.

In the self-created volunteer coordinator role, Feyh connected the students with the community-based service opportunities. Nearly every week, she sent out emails to the membership offering volunteer ideas and carpool options enabling students without transportation to participate. Activities ranged from nail painting and leading discussion groups to baking cookies and video taping residents for a documentary. She didn’t let up, knowing the senior citizens appreciated the interactions and the students welcomed the ease at scheduling their volunteer hours.

Her most impressive effort on campus this year was the intergenerational art show—an idea that came to her in her sleep. She awoke with the beginnings of a plan that would combine her interest in intergenerational studies, her passion for art and her desire to reduce stereotypes between generations.

“My goal was to create an intergenerational program and to get my community engaged,” she said. “The ideas morphed as I talked to residents and had more and more groups wanting to participate.”

Her connections with Danielle Brogley, Denise Niese and Jackie Metz at the BG Senior Center helped propel the involvement from the senior center to five area long-term care facilities. For the younger generation, she reached out to Sue Ullman, director of the STARS Program, who connected her to the site supervisors for nine area elementary schools. Within weeks she had artwork from most of the participants and her intergenerational art show was becoming a reality.

In April, the art was unveiled in a community event, held at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. A large burlap background was provided and 150 pieces of art inspired by nature were showcased.

“We had art created by individuals from ages 5 to 92, all displayed side by side with nothing identifying the age of the artist,” she said. The 30-foot by 6-foot display included two-dimensional artwork of various media, from collages to finger-painting.

“I wanted a way to decrease stereotypes of younger generations that older adults can’t do things, and for older adults to see that young children are very capable too.”

She was pleasantly surprised earlier this fall when she saw one of the art pieces from her exhibit that was created by Otterbein Portage Valley residents displayed at a Columbus art show that was hosted by Leading Age Ohio, an organization that empowers nonprofits to optimize choices for successful aging.

Her most recent accomplishments have been a part of her administrator-in-training internship at Willow Brook Christian Communities, in Delaware, Ohio, closer to her hometown. There she has developed and implemented an intergenerational volunteer program at each of the agency’s three campuses. She has involved about 50 students and 40 residents in the mutually beneficial interactions.

Additionally, she has implemented an offsite shredding system at the agency to enhance their HIPAA compliance, trained volunteers to help with Meals on Wheels and engaged the facility to participate in state programs such as the nursing home collaborative project and the music and memory initiative.

With diploma in hand, the graduating college senior will continue her efforts to engage the community and help improve the lives of the other generation of seniors. She plans to work as a volunteer coordinator before pursuing her ultimate goal to earn a master’s degree in nonprofit management and eventually start her own nonprofit aimed at bringing young adult volunteers into senior facilities and organizations to learn the joy of interacting with older adults.