When 42 eighth graders from Saints Peter and Paul Elementary School recently visited the residents of Londonderry Retirement Community to read their essays on the interviews they had conducted with residents, smiles and laughter filled the room. Londonderry resident Elaine Utley, who helped coordinate the project commented, “Even though we are with each other every day, we found out things about each other that we never knew before.”
The project was the idea of Sts. Peter and Paul’s language arts instructor, Karen McLaughlin, who hoped the experience would accomplish two overriding goals for the students. She commented, “First, it broadened their horizons and gave the students a better appreciation for age, experience, and time. Secondly, it helped them polish their verbal communication skills as well as their note taking and report-writing skills.”
The students made three visits to do research and interview the Londonderry residents. Eight students were selected to read their essays. Resident Bill Kepner, who had an illustrious photography career, spoke of his student interviewer, saying, “It was like talking to a friend.”
Following the essays being read, each of the 20 Londonderry residents received his or her essay in its raw, unedited form. You could see in the residents’ eyes how flattered, and in some cases tearful, they were to hear their stories told. Retired New York City police officer and Londonderry resident, William Farberman, commented about his students, Robert Smoloski and Nick Deluca, “They were fine young men. The fact that they were interested in me and my profession was wonderful.”
Resident Fran Appell, retired RN and nursing school administrator, commented, “It was just wonderful to expose us to the younger citizens of our town. In addition to them asking me questions, I got to ask them questions and be interested in their lives.”
Student Abigail Barcus, who interviewed Appell, added, “I loved this experience. It was something different than regular English class. I didn’t think it would be as wonderful for the residents as it was for us, but it was.”
Utley added, “It was a shot of adrenalin into the retirement community. In learning about this generation of students, we learned that the world will be in good hands when we are gone.”
In photo above: Pictured are residents at Londonderry Retirement Community listening to Sts. Peter and Paul eighth graders reading their essays based on interviews they did of the residents for their English class. (Photo courtesy of Bill Kepner)
In photo: Pictured is Sts. Peter and Paul eighth grader Claudia Sadler reading her essay about Londonderry Retirement Community resident Joan Clements.
In photo: Pictured is Sts. Peter and Paul eighth grader Olivia Webb reading her essay about Londonderry Retirement Community resident Joan Farberman.