“My name is Ashley, I am 17, and I am a rising senior at Huntington Beach High School. I was a volunteer at Alzheimer’s Family Center (AFC) this past summer. I came twice a week for two consecutive months. I love doing art so I assisted Gloria Martinez, the Activities Coordinator, with the art therapy sessions.”
“A lot of high school students prefer to volunteer at hospitals, but I feel like the elderly is a group that is often marginalized and forgotten. I do not know a lot of people my age who will want to hang out in a facility like AFC, but I personally think it’s really cool. I like listening to the patients’ stories. They all have great stories, sometimes very simple ones, like this gentleman named Charles who always tells me that his daughter bought him wonton soups, and how they are his favorite things in the world. Some of the patients started to open up to me as we were doing art together. It’s as if art enabled them to translate their memories into words again. One patient talked about how life was in the 1960s. He said: ‘Back then, you could be 18 and go to war, but did not have the right to vote.’”
“If I had more time, I’d come every day.”
The patients are fascinated by Ashley, whose artistic skills are truly wonderful. As she kindly gives suggestions on what to do next, the patients listen attentively and they apply the new techniques they just learned, such as how to create a color gradient or how to paint shadows with watercolors.
“It’s beautiful,” says one patient about the gradient of colors that she just painted in Ashley’s class. “It reminds me of sunlight, from sunset, to sunrise, to sunshine.” Ashley adds: ”Volunteering at AFC actually made me want to be a geriatric doctor, I had never thought about it before, but I am currently filling out my applications to study medicine in college.”