Students, seniors celebrate; Youths imagine 90th birthdays.
NORTHBRIDGE - It was senior skip day at Northbridge Middle School on May 20, but the six seniors who were skipping weren't elder class members; they were residents of Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Northbridge, who came as guests to a fifth-grade celebration of their own projected 90th birthdays.
Jaime C. Skillen, teacher of the fifth-grade's Inca Team, said the assignment was a fun way to learn how to write speeches. Students were charged with writing a speech that they imagined they might give on their 90th birthday, which included memories of their life and lessons learned. This was the first year of the annual project in which real 90-year-olds, or thereabouts, came to listen to the speeches and enjoy the celebration.
"It makes the students think a little bit of what they want to do in their lives," Ms. Skillen said. "This year it's that much more special with the residents coming."
Noting a few students who arrived wearing bald and gray-haired wigs and using canes, Ms. Skillen added, "We told them they got extra credit if they dressed up."
Beaumont's Recreation Director Heather A. Hough said she was excited to help the residents participate. "One of the reasons we came is this is National Nursing Home Week and our theme is Back to School," she said. "How perfect it is that [the students] are reading about their 90th birthday. It's interesting to hear their perspective."
In one corner of the middle school auditorium, eight or so fifth-graders gathered to share speeches around Beaumont resident Barbara Frabotta, including Mrs. Frabotta's 11-year-old granddaughter, Natalie E. Lyons, a student in the class.
Matthew Wittenberg, age 11, read his speech to Mrs. Frabotta, describing the highlight of his life as getting drafted by the Detroit Tigers, although he also enjoyed studying politics at the University of Alaska and traveling to places like Paris, Africa and Hawaii.
Ten-year-old Sarah Manuels' speech included memories of going to Boston College, having four children and opening a bakery. "My greatest accomplishment is I never stayed back," Sarah said. She offered this advice: "Never say no. Say yes."
Fifth-grade teacher Lauria K. Kamataris said the students' speeches frequently contained surprises. "Some of the things the kids tell you they have done are hilarious," she said.
Careers as astronauts, veterinarians, professional athletes and teachers were popular choices. Ms. Kamataris said, "It's nice seeing them dreaming these nice big thoughts; and who knows? They might come true."
Each of the Beaumont residents spent a few minutes chatting with students in their group about what life was like for them as children and what it's like now.
Alvenna M. Travers told the students that the happiest moment of her life was when she had her daughter. And when asked by a student whether she's staying healthy and eating lots of fruit, Mrs. Travers answered, "I'm doing my best. You've got to eat right."
Barbara L. King, the youngest of the six residents, at age 86, told her students that she enjoyed visiting because she had grown up in Quincy and had never been in Northbridge schools. She rated her own fifth-grade experience as only fair: "I didn't like the teacher."
The 65 fifth-graders and their teachers escorted the Beaumont residents to the cafeteria for birthday cake and sharing cards the students had made.
"This is probably one of their favorite writing assignments throughout the year," Ms. Skillen said. "Of course, it helps that they have cake at the end."
PHOTOG: SUSAN SPENCER PHOTOS
CUTLINE: (1) Students Patrick D. Sweeney and Jacob H. Carlson, Beaumont Recreation Director Heather A. Hough and resident Patricia J. Petrilli during the event. (2) Michael J. DeFazio gives his card to Beaumont Assisted Living resident Alvenna M. Travers. (3) Above, Matthew J. Rattray and Brian W. St. Francis dressed up for extra credit . (4) At right, Sarah Manuels reads her speech to Barbara Frabotta.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Jun 11, 2009|
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