Bridging Generations: Culinary Connections at W.C. Walker Senior Center
The holiday spirit was in the air yesterday morning at W.C. Walker Senior Center in Shafter as 20 senior citizens and five students from KCSOS’s Redwood High School CTE Culinary Program decorated cookies, sang holiday songs, and enjoyed each other’s company.
This collaboration started when Curt Williams, KCSOS’s Director of Homeless and Foster Youth Services, connected Kern County’s Aging and Adult Services with the KCSOS Alternative Education program. Using a grant to create intergenerational activities as a social outlet for aging adults, both organizations decided to work together.
In recent months, students have visited W.C. Walker several times to give demonstrations on how to set up and maintain hydroponic container gardens, establish an edible garden, and offer healthy meal prep lessons using the harvest from the garden. This most recent visit was another culinary activity where students baked cookies to decorate with those in attendnace.
Pamela Dobrenen, a program specialist in KCSOS’s Alternative Education division, appreciates the kindness the seniors have shown to the students. She even recalls there only being eight participants at first, and now, close to 30 regularly interact with the students.
“This project has been so successful that the students have been asked to repeat the program at Wasco Senior Center after the first of the year,” said Dobrenen. “It’s been an incredibly rewarding program for the in-custody youth and the seniors who benefit from their knowledge.”
Rebecca Jimenez, a participant who attended the special holiday activity, is happy that the partnership will be ongoing.
“I think this partnership has given students more confidence by helping us,” said Jimenez. “It makes me feel good to know that they are willing to put in the time to show us what they have learned in their CTE program. All of them were respectful and showed that they care about helping us.”
As the collaboration between Kern County’s Aging and Adult Services and KCSOS’s Alternative Education program continues, Dobrenen is especially grateful to CTE Culinary and Gardening Facilitator Rebecca Rivera and Kern County Probation Officer Spratley who have been diligent in facilitating these opportunities for the students. Through their efforts, students who rotate into the Redwood High School will continue to receive the benefits of creating connections with the seniors.
Redwood High School is at Kern Crossroads Juvenile Treatment Facility and provides educational services to about 80 students, mainly in grades 9-12. For more information on KCSOS’s Alternative Education program, you can visit kern.org/alted.
By Jennifer Bryan
Jennifer Bryan joined Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2021 as a Communications Specialist. As a creative and motivated marketing communications specialist, she has a special knack for storytelling and content creation. Born and raised in Kern County, Jennifer has worked in major industries within the region such as agriculture and oil and gas before she made the transition to education.