Student programming returns to Mayflower Community with weekly April events


Paul Hansen

Students painted rocks with members of the Mayflower Community on Saturday, April 22.

Charlotte Krone, Contributing Writer

“Do we get to name ‘em?” asked resident Deena Wellborn at the Mayflower Community’s rock painting table. The table in front of her was scattered with bottles of acrylic paint and markers, and beside her sat other residents, nurses and student volunteers, all working on their own rocks. Wellborn decided to name hers “Elmer.”

Every Saturday during the month of April, student volunteers from the College have been visiting the Mayflower to connect with residents over games and crafts. The Mayflower is a community for aging Grinnell residents, with a mix of independent and assisted living options. Evelyn Dziekan `24 started the Saturday program through a center for careers, life and services (CLS) work-study designed to integrate the College and surrounding community.

Dziekan said she was inspired to start the program at Mayflower by a discussion about talking to strangers in her SOC 111: Introduction to Sociology class with professor Lara Janson, sociology. “I wanted to see something happen within Mayflower that would bring students in,” said Dziekan.

Evelyn Dziekan `24 started the Saturdays with Students program. (Paul Hansen)

Dziekan said she thought that a “major problem” around efforts to build bridges between the College and town communities are the perceptions that students may have of the locals, but the residents of the Mayflower create an environment that is welcoming to students.

“I think it’s always nice to have activities on the weekend,” said Kathy Herman, an independent resident of the Mayflower since 2015. “There used to be not much on the weekends.” Herman, who was born in Northern California, moved to Grinnell when her now retired husband got a job as a professor, but she does not have much family in town.

Herman and Dziekan both said that the Mayflower’s previous programming with students was interrupted by the onset of the COVID pandemic. The rock painting and board game events that have been held April 8, 15, 22 and 29 are part of an effort to bring back events for residents and gauge interest for a program that could continue into next school year. So far, according to Dziekan, it has been successful.

“Every student who’s been here, they’ve all said they really liked it,” said Dziekan. After the program was promoted by the CLS and Dziekan’s sociology professor via an email to the student body, she said that she has received interest from a surplus of student volunteers. “A lot of students who came said they would come back again, and many of them have.” The volunteers in attendance on April 22 ranged from students like Cynthia Hu `23, who has been volunteering with the CLS since her first year, to first-timers.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to get out into the community more,” said volunteer Delaney Owens `25. “I figure, what’s the point of going to school in a small town with such a cool community if I don’t ever really get out there?” Owens said that she saw the event advertised in an email from the CLS and thought it would be a good chance to meet new people and do something fun. “I was right, it is fun!” she said.

I figure, what’s the point of going to school in a small town with such a cool community if I don’t ever really get out there?

— Delaney Owens `25

Many residents said they are eager to get to know students from the College. “The programs with college students are always very popular,” said Herman. “We always like to see young people.” Owens, who will be vacationing in Iceland for a week in June, met a resident who used to teach there and has since returned to travel. They got to talking about puffins, waterfalls and all the attractions Owens should be sure not to miss.

Dziekan said that it was initially a struggle to find her place at Mayflower, but that this program has given her direction. She considered the April events a chance to troubleshoot and prepare to continue programming at Mayflower this coming fall, including more variety –– Dziekan has a carnival in mind –– and weekday events.

“The problem I would see further on is, how much commitment can you get from students?” Dziekan said. Because students’ schedules can get busy, she is concerned about consistency and the need to search for new volunteers. “People should come!” said Dziekan.