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Photo courtesy of Parker Institute
Photo courtesy of Parker Institute
Caren Russo, a resident of the Parker Institute, with a member of the St. John’s campaign event planning class.

For some St. John’s University students, reaching out to the elderly has expanded their family.

The Parker Jewish Institute for Healthcare and Rehabilitation teamed up with students to highlight residents and patients’ individuality. The event, called Parker: Discovering a New Family, took place Sunday, May 5.

“These are individuals,” said Ron Shafran, associate vice president of public affairs and government relations for Parker.

Shafran’s wife, Phyllis, had her campaign event planning class from St. John’s come up with a public relations campaign to highlight the individuality of the residents. Another goal was to transform the image of the Parker Institute into being not just a rehab center, but also a place of learning.

The students interviewed the seniors about their lives and compiled snapshots depicting what made the seniors who they are.

Caren Russo, a resident at the Parker Institute, said she was initially unsure about why the students wanted to interview her.

“I really didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I was ready to back out.”

But Russo said in the end, she was glad she stuck with the project.

“It was exciting,” she said. “I enjoyed it, frankly.”

Student Bianca Pappas said that in addition to gaining experience on how to run a successful public relations campaign, she also became very close to the residents she interviewed.

Pappas said she was also able to learn a lot about life by seeing how the seniors reacted to the prospect of creating an art project.

“I learned that life still goes on,” she said. “You can still grow passion.”







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