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Masters Health Care Center resident Willie Ruth West likes visitors. So when Tennessee Tech University students Chanztyn Salters and Caleb Spicer arrived on a recent rainy afternoon, she warmly welcomed them.<thumb_MASTERSWillie Ruth West greets TTU students Chanztyn Salters and Caleb Spicer. >

Salters and Spicer are among 45 enrolled in LaNise Rosemond's University Connections course for students majoring in exercise science, physical education and wellness.

Among requirements of the course are that the students visit Masters Health Care Center in Algood and connect with someone older and wiser whom they might not otherwise meet. The students are all entering majors and plan to become everything from high school athletic coaches to health center fitness trainers.

"What I try to do in these courses is get the students to realize that what we do as physical education teachers, coaches, occupational therapists, physical therapists and fitness professionals is give of ourselves of make the quality of life better for others," Rosemond said. "The entire goal of the course is to help them understand a giving life philosophy."

Rosemond's classes have been traveling to Masters in Algood for three years during academic semesters. A few of the students, however, have developed relationships that extend far beyond the semester.

"There are so many good friends over there now. Some students still visit every semester even after the class is over," she said.

"We have been very impressed with the students that we get here from Tennessee Tech because they are so focused on the residents and their needs. This doesn't seem like a chore for them or a class assignment. They really seem to enjoy the friendship of the patients," said Melinda Bilbrey, admissions coordinator and daughter of resident Willie Ruth West.

Salters, a sophomore in pre-physical therapy, said he has learned valuable lessons while visiting the nursing home.

"It's helped me realize the importance of communication and how to connect with older people. We talk about situations and experiences. I've enjoyed it," he said.

Josh Graves, a sophomore in exercise science, said he enjoys the visits as much as the residents do.

"It's good to give back; you actually learn from people here," he said. "It helps you with people skills. You come here not knowing what to expect so it definitely helps you develop people skills."

Rosemond pairs the service learning experience with a book called The Go-Giver as a foundation to help students understand a giving philosophy of life. In addition, the class is designed to help students make connections throughout the TTU campus and Cookeville community.

"I'm really trying to teach them to maximize the moment," she said.