In 2011, Open Circle began an ambitious and innovative Academic Outreach program. The goal was to utilize college-level interns to enhance current calendar programming, allow for more simultaneous activities to be offered and to increase individualized engagement opportunities for members. The Academic Outreach project achieved these goals but became something much more substantial, reshaping the organization’s entire curriculum, service capabilities and relationship with the broader community. The various pilot projects and successes of our Academic initiative has received widespread attention and has been highlighted in print, radio and TV news media. Most importantly, it has served to enhance the person-centered experience of adult day services for our membership. The core benefits of this innovative program are noted below.
1. Interpersonal Connections: Since 2011, Open Circle’s Academic Outreach program has brought in more than 520 students from 11 different colleges and universities and as many different departments and academic disciplines from community college to doctoral level. The Outreach program has provided over 26,063 hours of student-member engagement experiences. These are quality hours of interpersonal connectivity for our members who all too often deal with symptoms of depression and isolation as their chronic illnesses limit social engagement and recreational activities or hobbies.
2. Community Life Opportunities: The Academic Outreach program has empowered student interns to develop lasting partnerships with other community nonprofits to further the Open Circle’ organization’s outreach and programming objectives. Examples of student led partnerships include: local schools, theaters, art galleries, philanthropic groups and the Elks. These projects create engaging community life opportunities for our members and provided college interns with invaluable real world leadership experience.
3. Expanding and Enhancing Programming Capabilities: The Academic Outreach program has enhanced our organization’s ability to provide multi-faceted health and wellness experiences for our membership by augmenting our program staff’s skill sets with other important disciplines including:
- Art Therapy interns from Adler Graduate School provide quality art based engagement,
- Occupational Therapy interns from the University of Minnesota and Anoka Technical College collaborate to develop entirely new forms of therapeutic engagement and individualized plans of care.
- RN Nursing interns from Metro State University and Normandale Community College complete a variety of assessments of our program, systems, and program environment to improve our person centered programming and environmental productivity.
- Human Service and Psychology interns from the U of M, Metro State and North Hennepin develop unique therapeutic engagement programs.
4. Work Force Development: Students completing lengthy internships become immersed in our unique work environment, connect with our staff and membership and make ideal on-call or part time employees as they continue their education.
5. Positive impact upon student perspective: Open Circle’s academic outreach experiences actively combat stereotypes, ageism and artificial limitations which our society places upon older adults. Students have expressed an increased sense of respect, empathy and understanding through engagement with our membership.
–Mark Rosen, Director of Therapeutic Programming Open Circle Adult Day Services