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September 11, 2007 > Teen on Senior Citizens Commission

Teen on Senior Citizens Commission

By Mekala Raman

The Fremont City Council appointed the first ever teenager, Ariela Koehler, to the City of Fremont Senior Citizens Commission in January of this year. The Irvington High School junior discovered her love for volunteering when, as a young girl, she saw her mother, Irene, volunteering on the Human Relations Commission. This sparked Koehler's interest and she decided to try it for herself. "I have been volunteering for as long as I can remember," she says. "I love volunteering in the community and I've always loved working with seniors."

Koehler has been collaborating with seniors on and off since the fifth grade. Recently, she considered applying for the Youth Commission, but thought that membership on the Senior Commission would be a unique and rewarding experience since she already interacted with other youth at volunteer activities, school, and socializing with friends.

Last year when Koehler volunteered in the League of Volunteers' (LoV) Thanksgiving event, she found it especially meaningful when providing meals for homebound community members, many of which were senior citizens. Koehler remarks, "The warmth with which they accepted the food truly touched my heart and put things in perspective for me. Many of the seniors told me stories of when they were young." This made her realize that she, too, would be a senior someday. That spurred her to become more involved helping and providing company for seniors in the community.

When Koehler discovered that an applicant does not actually have to be a senior citizen to be on the Commission, she immediately filled out an application form. On the form she was asked to provide background information about herself and her incentives for joining the commission. She mentioned her Thanksgiving experience and pointed out that she would be a good person to work with teens and seniors; to bridge the generation gap. She was selected to become the first teen commissioner in all 14 city-run commissions excluding the Youth Commission.

As part of the Senior Commission, Koehler recently organized an event in which ten teens were paired up with ten wheelchair-bound seniors to see the movie, No Reservations. "This was an experience for the teens to gain an appreciation of the seniors living in their community and also for the seniors to go out and see a movie," she says. She spent around 40 hours making arrangements with Fremont Paratransit, Cinedome8 Theatres, and Fremont Health Care Center. Koehler comments, "Most of the teens hadn't interacted with seniors outside of their family and when they came, they didn't really want to talk to them. It made me so happy when, at the end, they said they wanted to go back and visit the seniors again."

In addition to her work with the Senior Citizens Commission, Koehler has volunteered for the Homeless Coalition, helped with Fremont Education Foundation's yearly gala and provided assistance in last year's Celebrate Fremont activities. At school, she is captain of Irvington High School's Speech and Debate Team and plays the saxophone in the Wind Ensemble and Marching Band. Koehler aspires to study biotechnology at either UC Davis or UC San Diego and is excited to complete her two-year term on the Senior Commission before going to college. She points out, "If we are lucky, we are all going to be seniors one day." If more youths like Koehler work to bridge the gap, we can all look forward to an enjoyable senior citizenship.

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