Middle-schoolers learn life lessons through stories of the past
By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – When you put young, energetic students with older and wiser individuals, something almost magical happens. They interact, engage and learn so much from one another. There is an energy present that benefits both generations.
Sherwood Middle School held its third annual “His/Her Story Day” June 13, inviting senior citizens to interact with students. About 30 fifth- and sixth-grade students, along with six faculty members called the “Senior Outreach Crew,” met regularly for the past few months to plan and organize this event.
“I am really excited to hear about what life was like years ago. I know it was very different from the way things are now,” said sixth-grader Max Yan.
Upon entering the building, guests were greeted by members of the Senior Friends Crew and escorted into a reception area. There were plenty of baked goods made by the students and their families to enjoy. Each student was given the name of a speaker to escort to one of the classrooms once the reception had concluded. There, the guests spoke about many topics and were happy to answer any questions. Many of the speakers compiled a “menu list” that the students could select from to ask.
“I am hoping to educate the educators and the kids. Hopefully, they can take away from what we tell them. I think the young kids can learn a lot from the older ones as we have already been there,” said Dr. David Bittar, a guest speaker.
There were stories about the Korean War, educating prisoners, travel experiences, Shrewsbury history and buildings, careers, hard times during the 1930s and other topics. The students were very interested in what all the guests had to say and asked some really great questions.
“My grandson, Gregory, is a student here. My husband was a pilot and he came to speak a few years ago. This is such a wonderful program. Many of us don’t have many opportunities to interact with young people often enough,” said Elsie Hurter from Plymouth.
There were about 32 speakers that presented to the fifth- and sixth-grade students during this program. Many found out about it from a posted advertisement in the Senior Newsletter that goes to the Senior Center, while others are grandparents of students that attend the school.
“Three years ago, we reached out to seniors in the community,” explained Erin Hruskoci, advisor for the Senior Friends Crew. “We invited them to come and tell their story. We heard about the White City Amusement Park and a tornado that was most destructive. The guests talk about such a wide range of topics and the students continue to enjoy this highlight of the year.”
Other advisors for the Senior Friends Crew are Kathy Mangan, Lisa Pashou, Kelly O’Connell, Margie Bradley and Cathy Burke.
Dr. John Collins, retired Superintendent of Schools, had 41 topics to discuss on his “menu.” The students seemed to be very interested in his work at Shirley Prison where he teaches some of the inmates, many of whom never graduated from high school.
“The men are good students and I find them to be motivated. Of course, I have never asked about their background,” Collins said.
The students appreciated the guests’ taking the time to visit them.
“I have done this event once before,” sixth-grader Ella Peris said. “I like helping the community and making people smile. I talked to a few of the senior guests and some of them shared photographs of Shrewsbury many years ago. It looked so different.”
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