UCO student Marlee Hearn knew from a young age she had a desire to someday spend her career working with older adults. Her passion for health and wellness led her to pursue a degree in kinesiology-exercise/fitness management where she became connected with the Center for Active Living and Learning (CALL).
“Throughout my time in the kinesiology program my professors would always encourage me to get involved with CALL because of my passion to work with older adults, but I didn’t know if my schedule would allow for it,” said Hearn.
“I love CALL so much now. I can’t imagine not being a part of it.”
The goal of CALL is simple: to promote healthy living and lifelong learning throughout the lifespan with particular emphasis on UCO students and older adults. The program also offers targeted, transformative learning experiences for students which recently earned the center and its two co-directors, Melissa Powers and Jacilyn Olson, the Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning Award at UCO’s 2019 Fall Forum. The health and wellness benefits of the various classes are supported throughout years of research and offer a great way for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom in a professional environment.
Hearn currently holds one of the paid student positions for the program as the CALL student project coordinator. Her main roles are to handle the scheduling of classes and management of class instructors, many of whom are her peers. This role has taught her how to communicate in a professional environment, the importance of being organized, and just how rewarding it is to work with members of the community.
She explained that not only do CALL classes provide for health and wellness opportunities, but also for valuable, intergenerational social interactions.
“I really get to know my participants and about their lives, and they always ask about what I’m doing in college.”
CALL initially began through a grant-funded program under the direction of Kinesiology and Health Studies Professor, Melissa Powers, in 2008 that allowed kinesiology students to visit community centers and hold classes for older adults. In 2016, CALL officially transformed into a year-round program held on Central’s campus which has now grown to host eleven classes per week.
CALL also provides 24 different classes per week in communities across central Oklahoma at no cost to participants through partnerships with the Areawide Aging Agency and various residential communities.
Larissa Boyd, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies, credits CALL for sparking her interest in community-based research. She was part of the initial grant-funded research program which allowed kinesiology students to lead fitness classes in the community back in 2009.
“I seriously doubt I would’ve ended up as a faculty member here had I not had the opportunity to learn more about community based research through this program,” said Boyd.
“It changed my perspective on how education research can impact the community and students.”
All students in the kinesiology-exercise/fitness management program are now able to gain valuable experiences through CALL with a required involvements in several courses such as introduction to kinesiology and physical activity and aging along with the opportunity to become paid CALL student project coordinators and class instructors.
The future for the program looks bright as new funding opportunities have allowed CALL to continue to expand not only on UCO’s campus but also in the metro community with a new class recently being added at the Okarche Center of Family Love.
Hearn explained she hopes to see CALL continue to transform the lives of students just as it did for her.
“I hope to see CALL keep growing because it provides great experiences for students and a benefit for older adults who might not have this low-cost opportunity anywhere else.”