Betsy Sugar ‘21
Davidson has over 25 student organizations dedicated to service and civic engagement, one of which is the Adopt-a-Grandfriend program (AAG). According to the Civic Engagement Council’s page on Davidson’s website, student “volunteers are paired with senior citizens in the Davidson community. The program sponsors monthly activities that facilitate relationships between students and senior citizens.”
The town of Davidson also has information for older community members to sign up to be an adopted grandfriend to the students. The town’s site describes the program as “a fun and easy way to be a mentor and a friend to someone.” The site also lists the six scheduled events put on for those in the program. The events include a dessert social in October, followed by a Thanksgiving potluck, a holiday gathering, Valentines and hors d’oeuvres, trivia night, and finally an end-of-year BBQ coming up in May.
The town’s site prefaces the scheduled gatherings are not mandatory but rather for fun and to build friendships: “The real magic takes place when you spend time with your grandfriends outside of these events,” the site’s descriptor urges. “Call each other up for coffee, a Wildcat game, art or musical event or a home cooked dinner.” Many who participate in the program do find that while the events are fun, most of the bonding does happen outside of the suggested outings.
Multiple students and community members participate in the program, including Queena Chen ‘21, who is partnered alongside Cassidy Gould ‘22 with Cynthia and Jake, two senior citizens from the town. Chen had decided to sign up for the program after learning about it while visiting and seeing the booth at the activities fair her first year at Davidson.
Chen and her grandfriends do many different activities together, both through the college and outside of it as well. “My grandfriends would take us out or invite us to their house for dinner. We would go to basketball games and wrestling meets together, and they even took us out to Charlotte for a really cool dance show once,” Chen described. Other things that Chen and her grandfriends have done together include going out to dinner to celebrate Jake’s birthday, attending the Chinese Lunar Festival hosted on campus, and participating in the events sponsored by the Adopt-a-Grandfriend program.
Chen also celebrated her birthday alongside her grandfriend Cynthia, as the pair happen to share the same birthday, “but over 40 years apart,” according to Chen. For the joint celebration, they gathered with other students and adopted grandfriends to celebrate the pair’s birthday over cake and dinner.
In an interview, Chen’s grandfriend, Cynthia expressed her experience with the program. Cynthia and her husband decided to join after learning about the program through the Town of Davidson Parks and Recreation department. “It seemed a great way to get to know Davidson students on a personal level […] I lived in Spain for five years, have a son living in China and have traveled extensively, so my husband and I hoped we would be matched with a student who came from or had lived in another country. We were lucky and were matched with students who had international backgrounds.”
Cynthia also spoke more about her favorite memories she has developed from the program, including the performance in Charlotte she attended with Queena. “We had two extra tickets to see DIAVALO, a dance performance at Blumenthal Theater, and took Queena and Grace […] It was fun for my husband and I to have time to chat with the girls about their interests and backgrounds, as well as about the show.” Cynthia also expressed a lot of gratitude towards the program. “It is a privilege to have an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with these amazing students.”
Lucy Hammet ‘20 is another student participating in the Adopt-a-Grandfriend program. Hammet first learned about the program her freshman year when hearing some of her hallmates discuss signing up for the program. “Since I live pretty far from Davidson and don’t get to see my family as often as I would like to, this program seemed like a great way to connect with the Davidson community and the chance to spend time with people who aren’t college aged,” Hammet said, explaining why she decided to join the program.
Hammet, along with two of her friends, share two adopted grandfriends, Doug and Pam, whose grandchildren all live outside of North Carolina. Hammet expressed a great appreciation for the program and the lasting effects it will continue to have on herself, “I have loved getting to know Doug and Pam over the past two and a half years. It has been such a special experience spending time with them and hearing about their lives.”
Hammet also appreciates the opportunity to form meaningful and lasting relationships: “I have loved knowing that there are two people that care about me in the Davidson community outside of my friends that go to Davidson. I am very appreciative that I will have a connection to the town of Davidson even after I graduate.”