ANN ARBOR, Mich (WXYZ) — Riley Kita is a first-year freshman at the University of Michigan. Instead of spending it in her Ann Arbor dorm room, she’s been living at her home in St Ignace.
"Since we’re fully virtual this semester, I decided to move back home,” Kita said. "Nothing new happens, we kinda just sit here and do the same old same old."
No roommate, no floormates, and no easy way to make friends. Until one day when she got an email.
“I got an email about this new club at the University called 'Perfect Pair,'" Kita explained. "After being in a pandemic I was like 'Okay, any chance to meet people I want to.'”
So Riley joined Perfect Pair. But instead of meeting other freshmen, she became best friends with a senior.
“Oh it’s great being able to talk to young people, it’s been a while,” said assistant living resident Shirley Shaw.
Shaw and Kita now video chat once a week while Shirley stays at an assisted living home in Ann Arbor. The two have never met in person, but the connection was instant.
“It’s just like talking to my granddaughter," Shaw said. "It’s like home.”
Emily Lerner and Rachel Allesio are the ones behind this friendship. Both recent 2020 graduates from the University, they started the organization Perfect Pair during the Spring, connecting U-of-M students and assisted living residents.
“We opened the application in September and we have over 100 people who signed up for the program saying they wanted to be volunteers which blew us away,” Alessio said.
"We get applications weekly, they just keep rolling in,” Lerner added.
The students and residents both fill out a questionnaire and Perfect Pair does the rest. So far they have 40 matches and counting across assisted living homes in Ann Arbor, Farmington Hills, and Northville.
“It's really cute," Lerner said. "One of our matches call each other times outside of their meetings because they’re just so close.”
It's a benefit to not just Shirley, but for Riley too. Riley gets to take a break from her online learning, to learn even more.
“You can see it is something that is benefiting both and they are really enjoying their time together,” Alessio said.
It might not be the freshman year Riley imagined but without it, she never would have met Shirley.
"I know I wouldn't have met Shirley had it not been for Perfect Pair,” Kita said. "It’s really a highlight of my week, to do something different, to see a new face.”
Perfect Pair hopes to keep expanding to even more students and also start new chapters at other schools like Michigan State.
You can find more information at their website https://www.perfectpair.org/, or by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org or (248)-910-5714.