By Andrew Rudansky
Aries Cooks, a student at Bridgehampton middle school, leans over to her grandfather, William Richard, and places a penny on his numbered bingo sheet. They are but two of the 70-plus in attendance at the 6th annual Senior Citizens Luncheon in the Bridgehampton High School this past Friday, June 5.
The occasion, hosted by the Bridgehampton middle school, invited members of the Bridgehampton Senior Center to a free afternoon of food and entertainment. Mary Johnsen, teacher and director of the luncheon, says that this annual luncheon is just one more way to give back to the senior citizens, “It’s about saying thank you.”
The students have much to thank the seniors for; the two groups have been involved in what Johnsen calls an “intergenerational exchange.”
Johnsen explains how this relationship between the middle school and the senior center has expanded. Originally the seniors approached the school offering to read and share stories with the Preschoolers. Eventually this small link blossomed into a strong bond. Current projects include students doing landscaping work at the senior center, and seniors coming to class to share stories with the students. On the growing bond Principal Jack Pryor said, “On a purely service basis we need to reach out to the community…we need to get a more direct relationship with the people.”
All the money used for the Senior Citizens Luncheon was raised by the students in a highly successful car wash.Â
For the first five luncheons only the seventh and eight graders were involved, but because of the success of the program and the increased size of the program the school decided to incorporate fifth and sixth graders as well.
Johnsen is a ball of energy at the luncheon, overseeing every detail from food preparation to organizing the entertainment. But Johnsen takes little credit for the event, “these young kids are working their butts off to make this a special day.”
The students at the event did everything from cook the food, decorate the room, set the tables, act as waiters, provide entertainment and when it started to rain they even went to greet the senior citizens in the parking lot with umbrellas. Johnsen said that the entire day was orchestrated and directed by the students.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Pryor emphasized the educational component of the relationship. He points out that when the seniors come to the school they share their “oral history, histories from this older generation.”
Johnsen agrees with Pryor, pointing out how the senior citizens have come to classes in the middle school and shared stories of World War II and local history. “There is a curriculum link as well,” said Johnsen.
Johnsen is exited about the luncheon next year, which is already on the calendar. She says that because of the success of the luncheon that next year’s event will take place in a larger venue, such as the high school gymnasium.Â
The event, said Johnsen, allows the student to learn from the past, and “that’s what we should be doing.”