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BaptistCare The Grange residents team up with Wagga students to tackle life’s big issues

The life experience and local knowledge of residents from BaptistCare’s The Grange have been tapped into by students from Mater Dei Catholic College to create and pitch solutions to challenges experienced by Wagga Wagga community members.

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Keith and studnets hero

20 September 2023

News | Retirement Living, BaptistCare

With community connection and engagement at the centre of life at BaptistCare's The Grange, seniors living in the retirement community partner up with year 9 students across the school term for the ‘REAL Project’, an inter-generational mentoring program.

REAL Project teaching coordinator at Mater Dei Catholic College, Bianca Munro, said the idea was to find a way for students to consider issues in the community they maybe hadn’t thought out about and look at it in different ways, including through the eyes of those with strong life experience - seniors.

“It came out of a need we saw for our students to have an opportunity to explore their capability and skill and look at what’s happening in the wider Wagga community,” explained Bianca.

“We already have residents from BaptistCare The Grange coming to the school once a week for coffee, so we were able to gatecrash that, ask who wanted to be mentors to the students and it’s all been really great.”

It’s everyday Wagga residents who are pitching the problems. In speaking with students, they're being vulnerable about some of the challenges they face, and they aren’t shying away from the big issues.

This year the students and mentors have tackled topics like improving community connection, the rise of misinformation or social media use in a modern world.

BaptistCare The Grange resident Keith Lugton signed up as a mentor unsure what to expect and has loved it, working with several groups across the year.

“It’s great to be able to plant an idea or a suggestion with the students and then they go away and come back later to see what they do with it,” Keith said.

“I have worked with them at their own pace and own level and made little suggestions along the way that they’ve picked up, taken the ball and run with it.”

Bianca Munro said the inter-generational approach is at the heart of what has made the program a success.

“It’s an eye-opening experience for the students and the mentors who have brought their knowledge and expertise together to work on this project,” she said.

“The collaborative skill of working with someone who might not always understand things the same way you do is a valuable lesson for everyone. Mentors and students learn you sometimes have to take a little more time or a different approach, and you can see everyone grow through that.”

With the school term coming to an end, students had the chance to present their ideas back to the community members who initially raised their problems.

Keith Lugton saw his last important role as mentor to his group was to hype them up and get them ready for those final presentations.

“I’ve given them a pep talk, told them to visualise how they want to see themselves when they present their idea to the room, and I know they’re going to be great!” he said.

The success of the REAL project is inspiring more ideas to bring from BaptistCare’s The Grange, and students from Mater Dei Catholic College can continue to work together and learn from each other.

BaptistCare The Grange is one of two retirement living communities in Wagga Wagga operated by the leading not for profit aged care provider. Located close to Wagga Wagga’s Lake Albert, the premier location is located on 55 acres of landscaped ponds, gardens and walking trails.

Image caption: Mater Dei Catholic college students Claire Barclay, Maddie Clancy, with their REAL Project mentor Keith Lugton who's a resident at BaptistCare's The Grange.