A High School Valentine at Tansley Woods

Notre Dame CSS Students throw party for village residents

By Kristian Partington

On the Friday before Valentine’s Day, it’s not uncommon in most any Canadian community to see high school students decorating in pink, red and white in preparation for a dance to celebrate young love. To see them preparing the dance at a Retirement or Long-Term Care home for the exclusive enjoyment of the residents who live there, however, well that sight may be a little more rare to see. 

Group of residents and high school students dressed up for Valentine's Day
Notre Dame Catholic Secondary Students and residents came together
at The Village of Tansley Woods to celebrate Valentine's Day. 

At the Village of Tansley Woods on Feb. 13, Grade 12 students from Burlington’s Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School began preparing for an afternoon Valentine’s Dance at 9 a.m. It was a board-scheduled Professional Activity day for teachers, so the students technically could have been at home under the covers on one of the coldest days of the year, but instead they chose to spend the day with the residents of Tansley Woods.

Credit for the idea of the shared dance goes to the school’s chaplain, Wayne Lachapelle, says student Tristan Lacroix, but the entire class had to come together to make the event a success.

“We were ecstatic to try it out,” says fellow student Marshalene Vincent as she takes a break from preparing corsages and boutonnieres. “We’ve been doing a lot of initiatives to try and get involved in the community more . . . and I think it’s important to give back.”

She notes that the school is marking its 25th anniversary this year, and connecting with the community through events for both young and old is a means of offering gratitude for the support students have received over the years. 

Also, it’s fun to connect to a different time and place through the friendships students are forming with residents. They’ve been listening to music from generations past and practicing dance moves from decades gone by, and the students agree that a sense of romanticism and reverence comes to mind when they picture the past eras of those who make their home at Tansley Woods.

“It makes you reflect on the past, seeing how they danced and how we dance,” says student Victoria Scrocco. “It’s a transition – it’s very different and they have more of a classier way of dancing, which I think is very nice and respectful.”

This isn’t the first visit students have made to the village but more an extension of a relationship that has been growing throughout the school year as students volunteer their time. Marshalene says getting to know the residents through conversation and storytelling “is genuinely interesting,” and she has a special affinity for some of the veterans who live in the village.  She volunteers with the Army Cadets and is considering her path for the future, hopefully at the Royal Military College in Kingston, and connecting with soldiers of the past has been truly meaningful.

For all three students, the experience has helped them reimagine what life is like within a retirement or long-term care setting. “Just walking in the front door, it’s not like anything you would have expected,” Tristan says. “Most of the stereotypes surrounding most of the things you’d hear happening in here probably just aren’t true.”

Unless, of course, you have in mind the image of high school students and their elders celebrating love and friendship together through a common appreciation of music, dance and laughter – then that image fits perfectly into Valentine’s Day at The Village of Tansley Woods.