Playing guitar and piano for happy hour, helping budding artists realize their potential, and making a wall of honor for war veterans may not seem like the work of a high school student, but those are exactly the things that Ossining High School senior Adam Woodley has been doing in the month of October.
Adam has spent his school days helping out at the Atria Senior Living community in Ossining as part of his service learning project at Walkabout, a unique yearlong program for college-bound seniors offered by Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES.
Carol Daly, the Atria’s engage life specialist, says that Adam’s energy, focus and enthusiasm “are amazing! He’s been helping with whatever needs to be done, whether it is putting out daily schedules, gathering info for games, or playing the guitar and piano at happy hour. He’s even running a theatrical class called ‘You’re the Actor’.”
Music and performance are just the things to get Adam — and the residents — most enthused. Adam, who plans to study music production and business in college next fall, considers himself an entrepreneur in the field. In addition to his studies, he performs professionally and books his own gigs. He credits Walkabout with fueling his independent creative spirit.
Aside from the five-week service-learning project, Walkabout students earn a full year of academic credit, spend two weeks backpacking as a group to gain confidence and build a sense of community (while fulfilling their New York State physical education requirement), and complete a 10-week career internship. During both their internship and their service assignment, students attend classes at BOCES one day a week and are required to complete academic assignments.
“The sense of community among the Walkabout students is incredible,” Adam said. “It’s like we were all friends from the start.”
Many graduates credit the program, which was founded in 1977, with changing their life. That has certainly been true for Adam.
“I’m expanding myself spiritually and mentally,” he said. “It’s made me a better person.” It’s also helped him believe in himself and his career plans. “It’s really become part of my life. If you think positive things will happen, they will. There’s no reason why you can’t succeed in doing something that you love.”
Walkabout has been proven effective by the New York State Education Department and has been named one of the top 40 experientially oriented programs in the United States by the National Institute of Education.
Although Adam’s experience at the Atria is nearing its end, he will be back in a few weeks for a special project he’s been part of.
“We’re working on making a wall to honor our veterans,” he says, which will contain photos, medals and clippings. “I’m definitely coming back when it’s finished,” he said.
Like most Walkabout students, Adam is headed for college. He is currently in the process of completing applications with the ultimate goal of studying music production. More than 92 percent of Walkabout students go on to college, with graduates attending schools such as SUNY New Paltz, Bard, School of Visual Arts, Champlain College, New York University and others.
As for working at the Atria, Adam will miss the residents as much as they will miss him. “They appreciate everything so much. It’s been a great experience!”
Photos: Above, Woodley helps out in the art room as residents paint; Below, he talks to Atria residents Miriam Perusse, left, and Phyllis Roberts. Courtesy P/NW BOCES