Students connect with seniors through Enactus Sage



For many, letter writing can be a way to communicate with others in a different way from the regular texting or emailing most people use today. Through an RSO from the University of Illinois, letter writing has empowered students to become involved in the community while increasing their entrepreneurial skills.

Enactus is a social entrepreneurship organization on campus where students participate in different projects.

According to Enactus website, the organization creates businesses that aim to solve these social and environmental problems in the community.

Sanjana Gangadharan, second year business student, is a project manager at Sage at Enactus. She said Sage is a project created by students to help older members of the community.

Chaya Leeisranukul, senior business and project associate at Enactus, said she hopes Sage will help foster community for elderly participants.

“So Sage is a project under Enactus which is a non-profit RSO,” said Leeisranukul. “Sage addresses the issue of some seniors who might feel a bit isolated from the community. So what Sage does is we try to build relationships between the students and the seniors in the community to foster a healthy and supportive relationship between the two groups. ”

Matt Splitstone, a second year Business student, is a project associate at Enactus. Splitstone said the Enactus Sage project team consists of six project associates, a project manager and an executive director. Then there are also the student volunteers, who are the people who talk to the elderly participants.

Leeisranukul said all students can volunteer for Enactus.

Gangadharan said the project was in person before COVID-19. However, due to COVID-19, Sage is now offering a letter writing program to ensure the safety of elderly participants.

Gangadharan said that to be matched with an elderly participant, student volunteers will complete a Google form. They will be assigned a person based on their responses on this Google form.

The Collaborations in Health, Aging, Research and Technology, or CHART, is an organization that partners with Enactus to help Enactus members find elderly participants for the program.

There is also a business side of Sage. Splitstone said they are working with CHART to improve a legacy booklet process this year.

Splitstone said the production team is launching a keepsake booklet project where members will collect stories from elderly participants. They will then have the option of purchasing the booklet. He also said that in the future, if production staff received consent from the elderly participant, Enactus members could sell the booklet to community members and online.

Gangadharan said the student volunteers are supposed to ask questions that will cause the elderly participants to share some stories about their past.

Splitstone said the elderly participants share a lot of great stories. He said there was a lot to learn from the elderly participants and suggested that others participate in a similar experience.

“Because there is so much that they’ve been through that is so different from life as we know it,” Splitsone said. “So just by asking these questions I think we as a younger generation can learn from the older generations and that’s something we really appreciate. “

Leeisranukul said that this year there are community events planned for Sage. One planned event is a Zoom Share, where students and senior participants will bring in and talk about something that has sentimental value to them.

Leeisranukul said another planned event is a Zoom reunion that looks like a book club. Beforehand, senior participants and students will read the assigned chapters of a book they enjoy and discuss on Zoom.

Gangadharan said she liked the interactive part of Sage.

“Sage is one of the only Enactus projects where you can actually see the impact you are having and really work with the target group,” Gangadharan said. “So a lot of our projects are more product-based, so it’s great for people who really like being social, working with people.”

Splitstone said Sage is currently in the process of recruiting student volunteers.

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