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Student staff form lasting connections with Fox Run residents
Published: 12/1/2021
A part-time job with a $10,000 bonus seems almost too good to be true. But for the student servers at Fox Run retirement community in Novi, that is what awaits them in the form of a college scholarship for a job well done.

Students who work in the Dining Services Department for at least 1,000 hours between their junior and senior years, are in good standing, and have a 2.0 GPA or better are eligible for the scholarship – which can be used at two-and four-year colleges or trade schools. This is on top of being paid an hourly wage for their work.

“It’s a commitment for the student to say, ‘I’ll be there 500 hours per year for two years,’” said Peggy Mather Wadding, Philanthropy Manager at Fox Run. “In that time, they get to know our residents and we have these intergenerational relationships happening. We have all these seniors and students end up calling many of the residents ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’ as they get very close to them. It makes for a wonderful work environment.”

Residents are the ones who make the scholarship program possible with generous contributions since the program’s inception in 2004. There are more than 150 college students currently using scholarship funds to further their education, with more than 30 other student employees in the pipeline.

A community-wide fundraiser is held each year for the program, raising upwards of $350,000 annually.

“At Fox Run, we are fortunate to have many residents who are generous not only financially but also in sharing their time and knowledge with our student employees. The students benefit tremendously, learning much about life from the wide range of diverse experiences, careers and backgrounds of all the residents who live here who are 100% behind these kids,” said Mather Wadding. “They love to see them blossom, and forming those relationships is quite unique. The impressions the students get about these residents and the bond they form is so meaningful.”

Approximately 150 student employees at Fox Run work in a variety of different roles including hostess, server, food runner, busser, and more at the community’s four on-campus dining venues. About 30 to 35 students earn scholarships each year.

Resident Judi Odiorne has lived at Fox Run for four years and has enjoyed watching the self-confidence in the students grow as they get more comfortable. The focus of the job is not just the work itself, but building relationships and communication skills.

“Many of them are anxious when they first start, then you see their leadership skills start to come out,” she said. “It gives me goosebumps to this moment because you see their strength and confidence while doing a job. They also have a lot of people within the community who care about them that you might not have in another job.”

To supplement the real-world work experience students gain at the community, Fox Run also started a voluntary Mentorship Committee for interested students. It is not a requirement for the scholarship, but many students choose to take advantage of the opportunity to get to know Fox Run residents who worked in a career field they are interested in.

Odiorne chairs that committee, which started in 2019. A former professor at Wayne State and hospital administrator, she feels the mentors benefit as much, if not more, than the mentees.

“It’s given me so much,” she said. “It gives us a different opportunity to relate to what is going on in the world. I’m always so impressed with how capable these young people are and the similarities we have.”

For more information about careers at Fox Run, visit ericksonseniorliving.com/careers.