Spotlight On: Students of Service

Sophomore Katie Sotos, a biology concentrator and undeclared French minor hailing from Potomac, Maryland, is one of the co-heads of the COVE group Adopt-A-Grandparent (AAG). The group reaches out to elderly in the Hamilton Community, particularly those from the Extended Care Unit (ECU) of the Community Memorial Hospital, to provide them with interactions and conversations with people of a different generation.

“AAG’s goal is just to provide a consistent, reliable companion from outside the ECU and the patient’s family for the elderly to talk to,” Sotos said.

Members are matched with one grandparent and then proceed to chat with them at least once a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Every Tuesday or Thursday, Sotos takes a trip to the ECU to visit with her “grandma” Louise, along with her son and daughter-in-law.

“Louise is very deaf, so I have to write to her on a whiteboard and then she’ll respond verbally,” Sotos said.

“Grandma” Louise also does not remember much of her life, so Sotos mainly talks about her own life as a college student at Colgate.

In addition to adopting a grandparent, AAG also has a specific program where seven students take walks every day with Ruth Hartshorne, a 99-year-old Hamilton resident.

“Walking with Ruth is one of my favorite parts of AAG because Ruth is always expressing how much she enjoys the company of other people, especially us college students, in her life,” Sotos said.

Sotos also explained how every time she speaks with Ruth she learns something new, ranging from facts about Colgate and Hamilton to Hartshorne’s firsthand memories of historical moments to recommendations about cooking, movies and books. Knowing that Hartshorne enjoys spending time with college students makes Sotos’s time with the elderly woman even more worthwhile.

While she definitely enjoys giving back to the town of Hamilton that gives so much to Colgate University, Sotos’s favorite thing about working with AAG is knowing that the elderly men and women are filled with such happiness simply from her company and conversation.

“Service work revolves around helping to make others’ lives better and I love that something as simple and enjoyable as weekly chats can do that,” Sotos said.