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Dejanee's Career Choice is Crystal Clear - Thanks to Her Summer Job

August 11, 2015   + SHARE THIS


“Let me help you out sir, all we need to do is sort these pieces according to their shape and color. Whenever you feel like you have any matches let me know and I’d place them wherever you’d like.” I was speaking to an elderly resident who suffered a stroke. He now has a speech impediment and has lost the ability to use both his hands. After offering him a hand, I smiled at him and we continued to put together a 1000-piece puzzle. As I was putting together new puzzles with this eighty-six year old man almost every week, he, along with many other
elderly residents, were teaching me that despite life's challenges, you must keep going.         

As a dedicated volunteer at the Francis J. Pitkat Congregate Center, I worked closely with the residents, both preparing meals and participating in activities. Since the summer of my junior year, when I worked at the Center as part of the Summer Youth Employment program in Vernon, I played a vital role in assisting in the kitchen, helping to cook and serve meals three times a week. Prior to the start of each lunch service, I’d go around the dining room with a bright smile saying ‘how are we feeling today?”

Despite my generosity and enthusiasm, I often struggled to get and answer in return. One resident in particular always gave me trouble when I served him. The moment I’d enter his sight, he never failed to say something along the lines of “my food’s touching” or “you never get anything right do you?” Although his responses were seemingly negative, there was a reasonable excuse. On a Tuesday afternoon, he joined me in the sunroom and shared a little about his wife. She was battling the final stage of cancer and was placed in hospice. Part of me understood that at this age, I couldn’t relate to his pain. He says “she wouldn’t want me to stop living; she wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.” He knew that he had to make the best out of what he had left, and he provided me with the understanding that there’s always a purpose in life, I just had to find it                                   

Senior year is the year I looked forward to the most. It was suppose to be great because of all the opportunities and endless possibilities. Once the time arrived, I didn’t feel this way. I trudged through the halls everyday, and I seem to have lost the joy in attending any of my classes. It seems as if half of the classes I’ve taken won’t matter in the long run of my career ambitions. The awe and terror of what high school was before I started is now crumbling at the foundation. I feel exhausted and stripped of all motivation, which is the result of taking on a full load of courses. I haven’t been paying attention to the time that is flying by, which is why it hasn’t occurred to me how soon I’ll be out of high school… until now. I’ve always kept what these two Pitkat Center residents said in mind. If I give up now, I’d be throwing three years of hard work down the drain.

With this being my last year, I will continue to work hard and give it my all.                       

Working close with the elderly has taught me so much about life’s challenges and how they can be defeated with perseverance. The Pitkat Center steered me toward my profession to be a social worker, working with young children tangled in deplorable situations. I want to be to these kids, what the Pitkat Center was to me. It was an inspiration, a shining light at the end of a black tunnel. I don’t want to see these kids give up. I want to see them reach for the stars and fulfill their potential. As a social worker, I will do everything in my power to make this happen.           

In the photo: Dejanee is using these colorful balls as an exercise tool during fitness time for the elderly residents at the Pitkat Congregate Center in Vernon.