The generational gap has once again been bridged thanks to the heartfelt actions of Sparwood Secondary School (SSS) students.
Last year, Ms. Prest’s grade 11 English students created a book compiled of the autobiographies of senior citizens at Lilac Terrace. This year, 23 students returned to the senior’s supported living complex and wrote poems about a few of the seniors.
They then took photographs with the seniors, with the help of photographer Kyle Hamilton.
After five months, their final product emerged: a calendar, with each page dedicated to a senior citizen. Prest said it was great to be able to give them that gift.
“I think it just gives them a legacy,” said Prest.
“Something they can pass on as well.”
“It’s so simple,” she added. “It’s really just people talking, sharing stories, and tracking those memories, which is so valuable.”
Students have started selling these calendars for $15 each, and all proceeds will be donated back to Lilac Terrace for recreational activities.
Last year, the class sold approximately 300 books, and this year they aim to sell around 200 calendars. You can find them for sale at the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce, the Sparwood Public Library and Lilac Terrace.
Prest says she’s proud of her grade 11s, who jumped at the opportunity to be involved in this project.
“Every week they would come into class and ask, are we going to Lilac Terrace again?” said Prest.
“Every time I do this project … students take it really seriously. It’s bigger than them, they’re accountable to someone else. They’re accountable to it being published, so that level of writing, and they never ever handed in anything late.”
Prest said the poetry that the students produced was their best all year.
She believes that when you involve the community in a project and it becomes something real, you get great results.
One poem, written by Harlee Reghenas and Kassidy Vinet, takes us into the life of Anne. The poem is titled, A Mother’s Optimism, and is featured in the month of May.
The first paragraph reads:
“Approaching the end of May 1943, Anne was born. The seventh child of nine.
With six older and two younger than herself, she was constantly having fun.
From paper dolls to Monopoly, to hiding in the tall grass, there was never a care.
Suddenly parents sick at the age of nine, foster care is where she found herself next.
Anne was never one to complain, and she wasn’t about to start.
School was a breeze for Anne. As long as we aren’t talking physics.
The chores were inevitable, but the rewards were worth the time.
Hanging out with friends and watching the boys put outhouses on the school steps.
After a quiet graduation ceremony, Anne was now ready to take on the real world.
Of course, without a fear.”
When Prest was running for provincial government last year, she realized that seniors in her community were a bit separated from the rest of society, with little opportunity for inter-generational relationships to form. She says that the more she got to know the community, the more important she realized this was.
While teaching one day, she was surprised to find out that there was a senior’s home within walking distance from the high school. Since last year’s project was such a success, she couldn’t resist doing it again.
Prest says the response from the seniors has been heartwarming. All the seniors involved in last year’s project came to this year’s calendar launch.
“It’s amazing, the response,” she said. “They’re very grateful, they think that it’s very important. I was given a lovely bouquet of flowers, I had to put it in two vases it was so big.”
Prest is already looking forward to next year’s project, for which she has big plans. She hopes to expand the project, and open it up to other seniors in Sparwood. Even beyond her time in Sparwood, Prest hopes to see the project continue on.