Community Engagement Project Brings Together Students and Seniors

Through student-led art classes at assisted living centers, teens and seniors are making connections and building community

A team of students at Catlin Gabel has initiated a series of art classes for seniors at assisted living centers as a way to help residents stay connected and active. Classes are held regularly at the Touchmark in the West Hills and Regency Park residential facilities in Southwest Portland, and every session involves small group art instruction and social interaction with the students.

Student leaders for the project are Ayaan Sait ’24, Claire Druker ’24, Alara Lane ’23, and Grace Mueller ’23. All are participants in the Palma Seminar at Catlin Gabel, in which students initiate and carry out projects that will have a positive impact in the Portland community.

The student group has committed to hosting the art classes for seniors throughout April and May. They are also engaging other student volunteers to help with their effort (see volunteer sign-up here).

Throughout the one-hour art classes, students engage and socialize with attendees. Their larger goal is to rebuild a sense of community for senior citizens after the isolation caused by the pandemic.

The project has had a positive impact on the student leaders as well. “Even though this project was inspired by an assignment, it’s become more than that for all of us,” says group member Alara Lane. “We have been working alongside seniors to share different types of art with them while establishing connections between teens and seniors.” 

The multi-disciplinary Palma Seminar at Catlin Gabel combines formal study of contemporary issues with real-world student projects that take them outside of the classroom. Identifying personal values is central to every aspect of the program, including the decisions students make about the type of impact they want to have with their community engagement projects. Read more about the Palma Scholars Program.