Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

September 2012

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter September 2012

From Community Service: Sages and Seekers



What is it a young writer needs? No matter what his age, a writer needs to set his words and ideas, his way of seeing the world, “out there” for reading and comment. A writer’s world can be insular, which leads to depth and focus. But over time, if no one ever sees the work and responds to it, the words themselves can become stale or trite. Shakespeare wrote for the theatre; Dickens was published in serial form in newspapers; Elizabeth Barrett collaborated with Robert Browning. Students of writing have the same issues, often feeling as though they are writing for an audience of only one—their teacher. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to share one’s writing across generations with the sensibilities of other people who have lived very different lives from ours and could give us responses we cannot supply for ourselves?

The best kind of service partnerships emerge from genuine needs like this. On one side of town, young people at Nobles are working on becoming authentic voices in their prose. On another side of town, elders wish to discuss their experiences, and tell their stories. When two constituencies join forces to satisfy the needs of both, a mutual alliance of shared benefit emerges.

Jonathan Sands, Class of 2013, embraces his elder friend and writing partner during his service program last year.

“Sages and Seekers” (www.sagesandseekers.org) is a nonprofit program for elder and young people with similar interests. Nobles has been involved with this endeavor; Afternoon Program community service students have enjoyed their time interacting and writing with their elder friends in past years. This year, the program will be expanded by Tim Carey’s Expository Writing Class as the service program seeks to meld academic and experiential learning. His class will spend part of each week working with elder stories by crafting prose after one-on-one interactions with senior citizens.

But the art of writing is not the only focus. When younger and senior people get together over time, life stories, wisdom, and youthful energy combine to create community—the type extended family and small-town life used to create. The Sages and Seekers founder, Elly Katz, remarks that, “Today, our elderly are all but forgotten. In tribal cultures, the elderly have a vital role in their communities: they are the keepers of the memories and the wisdom. They are the honorable, the respected, the revered.  However, in many modern western cultures this is no longer the case. Today, seniors say they feel ignored, left out, and even disrespected.  What once used to be an honor, taking care of the seniors, is now considered a nuisance, a burden. This is a sad commentary on society today and where we place our values.” It is obvious that visiting, talking and writing with high schoolers can enhance the lives of the elderly. But this is a two way street, as well.

“This exchange provides the young person with an understanding that senior citizens have an amazing gift to share, their wisdom.  It is this wisdom that makes the Sages such a valuable part of our society and reminds us they are not community members who should be overlooked or ignored. From an educational perspective, the student also learns a great deal about interviewing skills, organizing facts, and writing a historical account with accuracy and sensitivity. Reading their story at the final meeting allows them to experience speaking in public. Ideally a sense of community is formed, as the connections between the Sage and the Seeker will hopefully extend beyond the classroom, and a true friendship can be forged.”

As the Nobles service program moves forward with its desire to incorporate authentic and experiential learning challenges in the academic arena, the addition of this real world writing exchange should be a meaningful partnership. Carey says, “My excitement for working with Sages and Seekers is that students, the seekers, will have an opportunity to get acquainted with and eventually get to know at a deeper level a person whose life has been long and vastly different from their own.  In working with the Sages, students will learn to interview, to speak about their partners publicly and to write a lengthy biograpical piece.  My hope is that the Sages will gain from being around a group of young adults and establish a relationship that will grow well after the course ends.”

Sandra MacQuinn and Linda Hurley

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Dedham, Massachusetts
02026
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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at kim_neal@nobles.edu.