monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

4 minutes reading time (798 words)

Teens from Programme Mile End HS Learn From and Energize Seniors in the Eva Marsden Seniors' Group

It's pretty normal to be relieved at the end of a workday, to want to go home and veg on the sofa! But that isn't at all how I feel today after my last session on the Blue Metropolis Literary Foundation project Looking Back for a Better Future. I don't feel relieved (more like sad it's over); I didn't want to go home, nor am I vegging on the sofa!

In today's photo, you can see teacher Annie Ogle (pretty much in the middle of the photo); Fréderick Gaudin-Lorin who coordinates educational programs for Blue Met (he's in the blue shirt at the front of our photo); Claire O'Brien who coordinates the Eva Marsden Centre's seniors' programs (she's next to me); at least one of the seniors who took part in the program; and some of the wonderful wonderful kids from Programme Mile End High School.

This was the second time the students met with "their" seniors. Videographer Alaric Boyle-Poirier caught some of their interactions on film -- because he's making a documentary film about the project. Very cool, no?!

So I'm going to go ahead and share a few of my favourite moments (and I had A LOT of them today!).

When I walked into the meeting room at the Montreal West United Church where the Eva Marsden program takes place, students Addison and Avery looked like they were still a little sleepy! But because I know and already like them, I joined them at their table. But when "their" senior walked into the room, Addison and Avery were suddenly wide-awake, calling out in unison, "Bill!" (You might have had to be there to see how cute this was.)

Addison and Avery asked Bill a tough question -- what was the hardest thing he'd ever been through -- and Bill told them it was the death eleven years ago of his "ladyfriend." This story led him to share some valuable life advice with the teens (and me too, since I was still sitting there). Bill said, "Cherish what's good. Always stress the positive." He added that if two good things and eight bad things happen, focus on the two good ones! You could tell that Bill really wanted to help make Addison and Avery's lives a little easier as they grow up.

A student named Andy wasn't there for last week's session and she was paired up with a senior who preferred not to tell us his name. "Call me Anonymous," he said. And you know what? Andy turned out to be a way better interviewer than me (even though I've done hundreds of interviews in my work as a freelance reporter). That's because Andy was PATIENT. I put the word in capitals because patience is a skill I lack. Anyway, I watched as Andy waited Anonymous out -- and listened to what he told her. "I was expelled from school. Within two weeks the police wanted to send me to reform school. Instead my parents sent me to a hospital," he told Andy. My heart felt like it was going to break when he added, "It was hell." But together with a friend, an older boy who was also hospitalized, they managed to escape through a bathroom window and set off to eventually find work in a nickel mine. I could not help thinking that that story would make an amazing novel or screenplay. Andy, you may want to consider writing it! If you do, I promise to provide some coaching from the sidelines!

I also caught a bit of Hurya and KR's conversation with a lovely woman named Eleanor. Eleanor told them: "Never is not in my vocabulary" -- which I thought was brilliant advice. Sitting with Eleanor and Hurya and KR gave me the odd feeling that I was in a fairy tale -- and that Eleanor was one of the magical good fairies I've always loved to read about. Eleanor had this to say about KR: "I like his insight. He's introspective like my nephew" and this to say about Hurya: "She's a real grownup. She's going to be successful because she's very focused." I felt like Eleanor was giving KR and Hurya each a blessing by putting into words the strengths she observed in them.

Now you can understand why I'm a little sad this beautiful project is nearly over. Looking Back for a Better Future has really made me see not just the importance, but the vital need for inter-generational connections. Thanks to Canadian Heritage for believing in our project, to Blue Met for making it happen, to Annie for sharing your students with us; to the seniors for opening up and sharing your stories, and to the kids for being AMAZING! Love to all of you from Monique


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Monday, 15 April 2024

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