Twenty-five Grade 9 students at Fredericton High School are involved in a special writing project that involves collecting and sharing the stories of seniors in their community.
On Nov. 29, they got together with 11 seniors from Ste. Anne's Court in the school library to hear about the seniors' lives and careers, precious memories and cherished keepsakes from historic photographs, medals and awards, to an old school yearbook and even a favourite teacup.
The students plan to write stories from the interviews and then publish them in a book during this school year. Each senior who participated will be presented with a copy of the book and another copy will also be placed in the school library.
"There were so many smiling faces and the comments we heard were so heartwarming," said Katie Prescott, literacy lead coach for ASD-W, after the event. "I overheard one girl say to the lady she was interviewing: 'thank you so much for this experience. I lost my grandparents, so this isn't something I get to do.' "
The intergenerational project is being led by FHS teacher Val Marshall who welcomed the seniors to the school and invited them to join the students at stations set up around the library.
"The goal of this intergenerational project is focused on storytelling and citizenship," Val Marshall said. "We hope this initiative will break down age barriers and pre-conceived ideas, encourage empathy, and provide the seniors and the students with a sense of value and community. We believe in the power of stories as a way to connect and understand ourselves and others. We were overjoyed with all of the smiles we saw on everyone's faces this morning!"
"I love working with young people," said senior Ian Stewart, a former teacher. "The stories I can tell - they think I'm pulling their leg!"
"I learned seniors can be pretty fun," student Will Thornton replied after hearing Stewart's eye-opening stories.
Matthew PremKumar, executive director of Ste. Anne's Court retirement residence, said stories connect people and help to start a conversation among new friends. He told students Sophia Kean and Ryan Landry of his journey from India 17 years ago and how grateful he is to be living in such a blessed country as Canada. He showed them a bracelet from Nigeria which he has carried with him through the years as a reminder of his trip from the other side of the world.
"My story is a reminder of how thankful we should be for the things we have in Canada, things we can take for granted," PremKumar said. "I am really thankful to be able to share my story of coming to Canada."
"I looked forward to this all week," added senior Joanne Ward, who shared her family history book and told student Colbie Campbell and Keith Wells, supply teacher, about growing up along the Tobique River. "I was excited to do it."
Shown in the photos below are (1) Matthew PremKumar (centre) sharing his story with students Ryan Landry (left) and Sophie Kean; (2) Joanne Ward (centre) sharing her story with Keith Wells, supply teacher, (left) and student Colbie Campbell.