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Fraser Heights Secondary student Robin and his new friend Annabelle, a resident at Fleetwood Villa, took part in a summer social justice program that included connecting teens and seniors.
Heading on transit to Fleetwood Villa Retirement Residence, Robin was nervous. Who would he meet? Would he or she like him? Would the conversation be awkward?
Upon arrival, the Surrey student was paired up with Annabelle, who was equally anxious about the group of visiting youth.
As the two began chatting, however, their fears were quickly dispelled.
"Once we got talking, it felt like we were reuniting again," says Robin, who starts Grade 10 in September. "She told me about her experiences and I connected to those, and she connected to mine when she asked me."
He learned that 90-year-old Annabelle grew up in Manitoba and is a former high school teacher, so is relatively comfortable around teens.
"When you get talking to them, they're very up front and energetic and this boy is pretty positive," Annabelle said of her new-found friend.
The experience was part of a four-week summer social justice course at Fraser Heights Secondary, proposed and developed by teacher Ami Kambo.
"The younger students were always asking 'why isn't there anything for us?' because Social Justice is for Grade 11s and 12s. So I gauged support and they signed up," says Kambo.
"It's not for marks or anything. They're just doing it to better their community and be better people."
The students – 16 Grade 9s and three Grade 12 peer tutors – had two sessions with the Fleetwood Villa seniors. During the first, called The Human Library-Connecting the Generations, the students interviewed the seniors, asking about their background and experiences.
The teens then went away and wrote poems about their new friends, presenting their writing during a follow-up "tea and poetry" session.
The seniors were duly impressed.
"It was wonderful and I enjoyed meeting this young lady," Fleetwood resident Kenneth said of student Jenny (pictured left), who wrote a trio of haiku about him. "Never pass up the opportunity to join with the boys and girls at school."
Moira (above right), who used to work at Fraser Heights as a library assistant, said she has an even stronger hope for the future after spending time with the students.
"I think our country is in great hands with what we have right here," she said, motioning to the youth.
Ed compared the Fraser Heights teens to his classmates of decades past.
"I remember when I was in high school, if the school had asked us to come in during summertime to do this, we'd have told them to get lost," he said to laughter. "So for these students to do this, I think it bodes very, very well… the generation we've got behind us is fantastic."
Each senior went home with a print anthology of the poems. Annabelle took an extra copy for Fleetwood Villa's library so other residents could read it.