NIXA, Mo. – You know the saying, “Respect your elders?” Well, one high school in Christian County is taking that phrase to the next level. Nixa’s alternative high school program, S.C.O.R.E., helps out at the senior center every week.

Every Monday this school year, students like Ethan Kagak help set up tables and chairs at the Nixa Senior Center.

“We help establish friendships and bonds with the senior citizens,” Kagak said. “It’s nice to get to talk to some older members of our community to understand where they come from. I think it helps my peers because you stay with the same people all day, and you forget other viewpoints sometimes. You understand others better, and I think that’s very important.”

Once a month, the senior student his classmates play bingo with the seniors.

“It’s helped me get an appreciation for senior citizens and helping the community,” Kagak said. “What I’ve enjoyed most is just coming here and seeing all of their faces. When we come here, they light up. They love having us here. They’re always like, ‘Oh, how are you doing?’ I could consider some of them my friends.”

Hayley Beebe, Kagak’s teacher, says she enjoys seeing the kids talk with others outside of the S.C.O.R.E. program. S.C.O.R.E. stands for a second chance of receiving an education.

“Getting rid of that stigma that they’re bad kids, or they’re kids that people have given up on,” Beebe said. “I like the community seeing they’re good kids; they have a big heart and just being able to get them out here in the community.”

Beebe says helping at the senior center has been part of S.C.O.R.E.’s family and consumer science class for quite some time.

“It was just kind of something that was given to me from the previous teacher,” Beebe said. “Last year, we were not able to do it because of COVID, so we were super excited when they called us and wanted us to come back this year. We weren’t sure with the restrictions whether that was going to be an option or not. The kids enjoy listening to the stories, and the seniors, I think, enjoy the kids coming in and getting that interaction.”

In her 12th year of going to the senior center, Jeannette Erter says she has met a handful of students.

“The last couple of years they have been coming here frequently and helping out,” Erter said. “The young man who was sitting next to me today, I asked him what he planned on doing once he graduates because he’s a senior this year. We like to ask them and see what they’re going to be doing and what their plans are.”

Spending time with students is almost like deja vu for Erter, who used to be a teacher.

“I really enjoy having the students come and help us out,” Erter said. “I know it’s going to help them, in the long run, to be citizens for us and help us. I like to visit with them as much as I can.”