With hand-made cards, a special meal and the gift of their time, eighth grade students in Bobbie Woods’ Food Basics II class at the Neosho Junior High School made Valentine’s Day a little more special for residents at Webwood Assisted Living in Neosho last week.

It was the latest chapter in the ongoing Career Explorations Program at the junior high. All 8th grade students are part of the program but on Thursday, Ms. Wood’s students were front and center.

Upon arrival, the students met with staff members and gained information about the variety of careers found in such a facility.

“They found out it’s not just nursing,” Wood said. “They discovered there’s food preparation, landscaping, and a lot of other jobs.”

Eighth grader Desi Penney was among the students who thought they might consider a career in nursing in the future. That’s the idea behind the program, something the facilitator Mark Daugherty, a long-time teacher, wants the young people to consider early.

At Webwood, after a tour and discussion about employment possibilities, the students spent some time with the residents. They played bingo and talked with the older generation.

“We read some books, too,” Christian Hernandez said. “It’s pretty fun.”

According to Daugherty, one of the residents at the facility is a children’s book illustrator and although she felt too ill to join the fun, she sent out some of the books with her art so the students could see them.

The meal included spaghetti, bread, salad and desserts along with a beverage.

Students set the tables, wrapped silverware in napkins and helped to serve.

“I helped with the sauce,” Desi Penney said.

Some students shared a table with a resident and others sat with Woods.

Webwood resident Kenneth Nading enjoyed both lunch and the company.

“It’s good,” he said about the food. “It’s very good.”

The kids had fun, too.

“We’ve had a great time with the senior people,” Shawn Pilkenton said.

Through Career Explorations, students have visited a variety of locations to learn about different careers including area hospitals, the construction site of the new Goodman Elementary School and more.

Three students, Shawn Pilkenton, David Bravo and Christian Hernandez all said so far, they’re the most interested in a construction career.

“We go to a lot of places,” Woods said. “It’s very entertaining.”

Students brought hand-made Valentines to hand out to the residents. Brianna Garrison was happy to deliver them to the senior citizens, who were pleased to receive the bright colored messages.

“They enjoy it,” Daugherty said. “It’s more than just getting out of school. They’re learning and they’re interacting.”

When they’re a little older, the students may want to apply for jobs at Webwood Assisted Living and some expressed interest in doing so. For now, however, Daugherty said they can come back to volunteer, to play games and visit with relatives.

Other outings will be upcoming for the Career Explorations students as local 8th graders delve into various industries and locations to get a taste for what they may want to do in the future. On Thursday, Woods’ second year Food Basics students were those who participated. Throughout the year, all of the 8th graders will be out and about as well.