At Girls Inc., Akilah Hartgrove ’20 listens. She listens to young girls and all their enthusiasms, thoughts and impressions. And Hartgrove listens at a nursing home, Friends Fellowship, to dementia patients searching for their memories.
It’s Hartgrove’s second year of serving at Friends Fellowship and her first at Girls Inc. Prior to Earlham, she volunteered at ArtStream in Washington, D.C., for four years mentoring adult actors with autism.
“I think what I’ve learned from all of this is patience and that people need someone to listen to them,” she says. Hartgrove is a Bonner Scholar, a leadership program that offers scholarships to students with a passion for service.
At Friends Fellowship, Hartgrove is a trained artist-partner in Opening Minds through Art program, OMA, which uses art to connect volunteers and artists with dementia. Volunteers are trained to encourage artists to rely on imagination instead of memory and focus on remaining strengths instead of lost skills. Training includes doing art projects with goggles, bulky gloves and headphones, to more closely simulate the experience of a dementia patient.
“With our artist-partner we do some complicated projects that require layering like a leaf collage, and it triggers their memories of childhood and reminds the artist of fall,” says Hartgrove, who is considering majoring in Psychology or African and African American Studies.
Hartgrove loves theater, especially musicals, and has years of voice and acting lessons. Her interest and ability in music has helped her to better connect with her artist-partner this year.
“OMA sessions begin with two songs, and my partner now is a pretty good singer,” she says. “I can hear how strong her voice is and that she had a vocal background. OMA is based on visual art, but it’s a nice touch to add in music as a form of art as well.”
At ArtStream, she helped adults with autism practice their lines for plays, in which they created their own characters.
A few weeks ago, she says she had a eureka moment.
“I realized that I wanted to and that I can utilize my acting, theatre, music background, that I can use that as a way to do service,” she says. “Specifically I want to help empower young girls of color. I don’t know exactly what that will look like but maybe it will be starting my own non-profit in diversity advocacy.”