r By Great Crofts
A long line of pink-cheeked, 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.