The Spires at Berry College opened its doors to new residents recently and what these new residents came home to was a stylish, modern living and community spaces.
But while the residents themselves are retirees, there are other people on The Spires campus whose youthful exuberance is a perfect balance for the wisdom and experience of the residents.
There are 14 Berry College students who work at The Spires full time. But by the fall there will be about 50 students working there in some capacity. And they bring with them a variety of backgrounds and with various educational goals.
Through a competitive process, Berry offers the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship to financially-eligible students who work hard – in the classroom and out. “Gate Scholars” are fully engaged in Berry’s Work Experience Program, gaining meaningful experiences while completing their four-year degrees.
“From the beginning of our partnership with Berry College, it’s always been the plan for there to be a number of students working and learning from different areas of The Spires,” said Morgan Lamphere, VP of marketing for The Spires.
Brian Erb is VP of Finance for Berry College but is also on the Board of Directors at The Spires. He said even a dozen years ago when initially planning the retirement community, students were at the forefront of their plans.
“When we originally were visioning the concept of The Spires and what it would be like to have a retirement community adjacent to the college, one of the enticing components would be to have students who could rotate through various jobs at The Spires,” he said. “That was one of our driving interesting attributes of how this community might work.”
Erb said the college is always looking for interesting jobs for students — jobs that would enhance their educational experience.
“The Spires certainly generates interesting jobs,” he said. Nursing students will rotate through the healthcare building, there’s the concierge area or the fitness center or the accounting office. So many areas of interest for our students.”
Students work in a variety of areas at The Spires including dining venues, the resident life team, housekeeping and consierge services.
“The residents absolutely love it,” Lamphere said. “First of all the community itself is a very beautiful space but the students make it a warm and welcoming environment. The residents get to interact with younger people. The place doesn’t feel stuffy or one dimensional.”
Lamphere has been working with the students on the concierge team and said she was pleasantly surprised after hearing the students’ initial impressions of The Spires and its residents versus how they feel now. The students recognize the unique opportunities they have to learn from the residents.
“It’s really an exchange of knowledge and experience,” Lamphere said. “Many of the residents are retired professionals from a variety of different careers and these students get to talk to them and ask questions and grow from these interactions. And the students, for example, are helping some of the residents with getting their technology set up. It’s a beautiful exchange across generations.”
Erb said He visits The Spires two or three days a week and without exception he sees the blossoming relationships and interaction between students and residents.
“The residents love it,” he said. “One resident told me he walk talking to a student and discovered that they had both been Eagle Scouts and that was a cool thing they had in common. And the students get to pick their brains about things they’ve done. Residents include an Admiral in the navy, an ex college professor and one gentleman spent his career as a casino operator.”
The plan is that these students will continue working at The Spires until they graduate. They idea, Lamphere said, is that the more time the students and residents spend together, their relationships will grow and the exchange on knowledge will grow. The students receive valuable training opportunities. Most of the students are rising sophomores and as new scholars join the program, they’re trained by the more experienced students.