BI Senior Living offers teens 1st job experience

The server program at Bainbridge Island Senior Living is connecting high school students with jobs in different retirement communities.

Morgan Rohrbach, president and CEO of Bainbridge Senior Living, said the program is a great first job for high schoolers that introduces them to elders in the community who love seeing young faces and appreciate the teens who are kind and compassionate.

Human resources director Michelle Thorpe said working in the dining room is a great first job because they learn so much through the hiring process and on the job. “It’s mutually beneficial,” Thorpe said. “Often, this is the first job where they gain valuable work experience for their next job later in life.”

For many, being a server may be the one job they have all through high school because it’s flexible. Servers work from 4-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and on weekends with pay starting at $16 an hour.

Servers take orders and deliver food and sometimes they might even help with their mobile devices, share stories or play cards. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for intergenerational connection,” said Rohrbach, whose daughter is a server.

After finishing mandatory online training, students must receive a state food handlers certificate. Then they participate in a short period of job shadowing before actually stepping into their role where they learn about the company, how to communicate with their supervisors, and how to interact with residents. “It’s a health care industry job, so there’s a lot of paperwork,” Rohrbach said, adding they are trying to hire eight more servers.

The job can be a stepping stone toward becoming a Certified Health Care Aid. “Sometimes we’re able to grow our own staff out of these jobs as well,” Rohrbach said. HCAs receive $20 an hour during training and $21.50 an hour after earning state certification. “It’s a really good paying job that’s local and highly valued and greatly needed.”

Rohrbach said managing the program can be challenging because student schedules are always changing. But “it’s such an important part of how we’ve always operated. The residents appreciate the interaction with the youth and some servers don’t have grandparents around, so it’s really eye-opening for them to be around elderly people.”

Over the years, parents have told Rohrback that the program has had a great impact on their children, by giving them direction and teaching them responsibility and accountability while being mentored by others.

From the perspective of the residents, they look forward to seeing the students. Nancy York, 94, said she grew up in The Depression and had her first job when she was 5. She said she is very impressed with the student servers.

Lynn Sinclair, a new resident at Madison House, said, “I’m so impressed by the empathy and compassion that these young people have in their job. They carry themselves extremely well and treat the residents with compassion and dignity.”

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Resident Nancy York, 94, looks forward to the dinner hour.

Resident Nancy York, 94, looks forward to the dinner hour.

Maggie Rohrbach speaks with a co-worker in the kitchen at the Madison House dining room.

Maggie Rohrbach speaks with a co-worker in the kitchen at the Madison House dining room.