Danville Express

Living - March 9, 2007

Giving back

Middle school students reach out and connect with others

by Natalie O'Neill

Sunrise Assisted Living resident Gwen Chipman's face lit up as a group of eighth-graders approached her with friendly grins.

"My name's Annie. What's yours?" eighth-grader Annie Humphrey chirped.

After an introduction, a conversation sparked between the two despite the vast age gap that separates them. Gwen told Annie memories she has of when she was her age, noting where she grew up, and Annie listened to her intently.

Seventh- and eighth-graders from San Ramon Valley Christian Academy visited elderly Danville residents at the assisted living complex last week as part of the school's annual Junior High Service Day. Other middle-school students from the school picked up debris along Iron Horse Trail and some wrote letters to soldiers in Iraq as part of their effort to connect with the community.

"I wanted them to expand their box - to get out of their comfort zone," said Anthony Villella, who teaches history at the school and accompanied the students to Sunrise.

Students gave musical performances to Sunrise residents, painted with them, and baked them pizza as part of their service day. They also spent time just talking, to the delight of many elderly residents.

"Kids in Danville have it good - they have a lot to be grateful for so they are giving back to the community that raised them," said Sarah Hawkins, who does informal public relations for the school.

The students must participate in the service day to graduate from the school, a task that students said they enjoyed. The project allowed them to get out of the school and into the town for a day.

Eighth-grader Melissa Yeung said the best part was seeing how happy it made the residents.

"It brings smiles to their faces," Yeung said.

If anyone wants to volunteer at Sunrise Assisted Living, call Vivian Bowers at 831-1740.

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