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Cherish Community and CAS participants meet for tea

For 18-year old Bella MacMunn (YR 45/2020, Australia), Monday afternoons are certainly among her favourite parts of the week. These are when she leaves all the stress of the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program, competing schoolwork priorities and other campus activities behind to sit, listen and actively engage with people about four times her age.

Monday afternoons are when Bella and 11 of her co-years visit seniors at the Cherish Retirement Community in Langford – a community about 15 minutes from campus – to engage residents in activities such as bowling, singing, crafts or simply listening to the stories of their lives. And all of those, alongside a freshly brewed cup of tea.

“I look forward to my CAS activity every week,” the second-year student explains with a smile. “At Pearson, we have a lot of intercultural connections. At Cherish, we experience intergenerational connections.”

In addition to their regular academic schedules, Pearson College UWC students choose two activities from more than 30 extracurricular activities under the CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) banner.

When Bella started her first year at Pearson in September 2018, she initially put Cherish CAS as her last option. “To be totally honest, I was a bit disappointed when I saw that I was placed in the Cherish CAS. I much rather would have gone diving,” she admits. Bella quickly learned however, how much she loved the activity despite her initial apprehension.

“It is so wonderful to have a connection to the community outside of the College. To listen to the residents’ stories, experiences and explore the generational and intercultural gap is extremely interesting. They, after all, grew up in an entirely different time and place than I did.

“Over the course of my first year, I formed a relationship with a few of the residents and we kept in touch even over the summer break. One couple had a new great-granddaughter and sent me pictures of her regularly. These two have become very special to me, so I was eager to continue with this CAS in a leadership role in my second year at the College.”

One thing Bella mentioned stood out in particular. “Cherish CAS is such a good opportunity to sit back and realize that life is not all about you, your Pearson cohort and the IB.

“Things that are front and centre in your life are put into perspective when you listen to the seniors’ stories. I learn about people who all had great lives. Some of them dropped out of school at the age of 14 and some went on to get a PhD. I have come to the realization that there are so many different ways to live your life and that you can make it good regardless of how you do it.”

Cherish CAS is one of Pearson’s many service-oriented activities. Students learn and practice active listening, patience, intercultural communication, community asset mapping and needs assessment.

“All CAS activities have certain learnings and outcomes in common. You get to know yourself and the people in your activity better, you step outside of your comfort zone and share the same experience among your peers. Cherish CAS, however, stands out to me, as you interact with much older people than you are. At Pearson, I interact mostly with teenagers, with people on the same plane. With people from a different generation, however, you have to feel out a way of interacting and talking and gauging the level of formality they would expect from you.

“I have learned so much in the past one-and-a-half years.”

Adds Julia Clark, Dean of Students and CAS activity leader, “Cherish residents echo the students’ sentiment about a connection outside of their own living community. They love it when we come each week. They participate as their time or health permits, but we have a steady participation from them and students as well as the seniors form relationships, just like in Bella’s case.”

Thanks to the Cherish Retirement Community for offering this invaluable learning experience for our students and forming such a great partnership with the College.