GV College of Health Professions partners with Samaritas for new student program


GVL / Max Ritchie

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s College of Health Professions will be piloting a partnership program with Samaritas Senior Living of Grand Rapids beginning in the fall of 2022. 

Through this program, two GVSU College of Health Professions students will be selected to take part in an immersive intergenerational experience. 

During the school year, participants will work and reside alongside seniors at Samaritas in exchange for discounted housing.

“There are really some huge benefits for students, especially students going into healthcare,” said Dawn DeVries, Program Director and associate professor of GVSU’s recreational therapy program. “With the experience of living among an older adult, you’re going to develop empathy. You’re going to see the ins and outs of daily life, not just the problems we tend to focus on in health care, and you’re just going to have that real opportunity to really see what it’s like to age.” 

Participants will be expected to provide at least 10 volunteer hours a week at Samaritas in exchange for the reduced housing expenses. DeVries said that Samaritas’ goal is to have these volunteer hours be a combination of social and academic. 

“The students are going to have some different opportunities based on what their interests are,” DeVries said. “Somebody might want to lead an exercise group because they’re going into exercise science or PT, or a rec therapy major wants to do a reminiscing group or a cognitive training group, the students will have those kinds of opportunities.” 

In exchange for their voluntary participation, students will be provided with a one-bedroom apartment for $100 dollars a month along with two free meals a day. 

Program directors said they hope to expand the program by eventually increasing the number of students residing at Samaritas. 

“We are looking forward to expanding our affiliation with Samaritas beyond our clinical affiliation agreement,” said Teresa Beck, acting Dean of the College of Health Professions, to GVNext. “This living and learning opportunity has the ability to have a tremendous impact on the students as well as the Samaritas residents through the intergenerational programming.”

For those interested in applying for the partnership, Samaritas requests a letter of recommendation from a GVSU faculty member as well as a letter to the residents of Samaritas explaining why applicants would be a good fit for the partnership by Friday, April 15, 2022. 

Students must be a part of the College of Health Professions to be considered for this position. 

“We’re excited to welcome students that bring a new energy to the seniors of Samaritas,” said Beth Covault, Executive Director of Samaritas Grand Rapids, to GVNext. “Our residents have a lot of personal life experiences and stories that they love to share and having students here will lend itself to a wonderful learning experience for everyone.”