Every year since 2003, the University of South Florida’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement has held a Senior Citizen Prom. This year’s ninth annual prom was held on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Local senior citizens, many from St. Joseph’s John Knox, a retirement home, were transported to campus to attend the prom.

I did not originally expect my volunteer experience to be as hands-on and people-orientated as it was. I thought I was going to be setting up or cleaning and serving food, but instead I was able to spend a great deal of time with the senior citizens. I had actually chosen to volunteer at this event because it seemed interesting and I didn’t have a lot of experience with the elderly. I am not necessarily uncomfortable but the event did seem bittersweet and put me out of my comfort zone. I think this is the best way to grow and develop though.

I spent the majority of my time sitting with three women from “Johnny Knox” as they called it. I chatted with Hazel, a ninety three year old women who has lived in the Tampa Bay area most of her life, Marge, who was from Kansas and Jean, whose father was a foreign correspondent during World War II. I got to hear about their life experiences as well as tell them about myself; all three women gushed about how much they enjoyed meeting so many young people at this event.

I think this was the greatest benefit of the event – the opportunity to meet people from other generations, hear their wisdom and listen to their experiences, while also brightening their day. I was touched by the energy of the guests, many of whom were at least three times my age, as well as their continued excitement and enthusiasm for life.

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