Teen es­says and se­nior cit­i­zens

Serve Daily - - COMMUNITY - By Greta Crofts for Serve Daily

SPRINGVILLE — A long line of pinkcheeked, smil­ing 9th graders snake down the road along the side­walk of West Cen­ter Street in Springville. Th­ese quick-footed stu­dents are en route to the Ash­ford As­sisted Liv­ing fa­cil­ity to in­ter­view their new­found friends and “clients.” As part of their nar­ra­tive writ­ing unit, th­ese stu­dents have stepped into the role of bi­og­ra­pher; they are tasked with writ­ing a nar­ra­tive about an ex­pe­ri­ence from the life of an Ash­ford res­i­dent.

“The driv­ing ques­tion for our writ­ing project is: How can I tell a stranger’s story truth­fully and hon­or­ably?” ex­plains Jessie An­der­son. He’s been in­ter­view­ing eighty-year-old Berla. “My client has had an amaz­ing life!” he con­tin­ues. “I can’t wait to write about her fighter pi­lot hus­band, her seven kids, life in Ger­many and France, and her mar­riage at age 18!”

Han­nah Gon­za­lez is also build­ing a friend­ship with her res­i­dent-client. “We were all think­ing the nurs­ing home would be a scary, ugly place; an old place for peo­ple who can’t take care of them­selves, and no one is ever happy. But Ash­ford proved us to­tally wrong. The nurs­ing home was a happy place that made you feel warm in­side. My only com­plaint is that I did not have enough time vis­it­ing with my new res­i­dent friend!”

Th­ese pos­i­tive re­ports fail to cap­ture the ex­cited chat­ter and glow­ing eyes of the stu­dents as they erupt out of the as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity post-in­ter­view­ing. Af­ter sev­eral meet­ings, their ag­ing “clients” have be­come dear friends and men­tors. Speak­ing with the stu­dents it is clear they take their task se­ri­ously. Af­ter com­plet­ing their nar­ra­tives the stu­dents will pub­lish them in a col­lec­tion of sto­ries and present the book to the res­i­dents.

Kheanna Madri­gal ex­plained it this way. “I want to do a good job writ­ing this story, be­cause I want my client to re­live her life in a beau­ti­ful way.”

Emma Fis­cher shared this, “Be­fore vis­it­ing Ash­ford for the first time, we spoke with a nurs­ing home ad­min­is­tra­tor. He said, ‘This ex­pe­ri­ence will change your life.’ That state­ment is very much true.”

As you drive along West Cen­ter Street in the com­ing weeks, keep your eyes peeled for the car­a­van of bi­og­ra­pher stu­dents. Ask them about this unique op­por­tu­nity to write to a real-world au­di­ence and de­velop a spe­cial bond with a friend (some­times seventy years their se­nior!). What be­gan as a gulf of an age-gap is now bridged by hours of con­ver­sa­tion, pages of care­fully crafted writ­ing, and most im­por­tantly, mu­tual re­spect.

Springville stu­dents in­ter­view se­niors as part of their nar­ra­tive writ­ing unit.

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