Surgoinsville students compile stories from seniors for new book

Jeff Bobo • Apr 2, 2017 at 3:00 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — A group of Surgoinsville eighth-graders visited a nearby nursing home last week hoping to preserve some history while gaining some knowledge and wisdom from their elders.

Reports written by the students about their experiences will be published in a hardcover book.

Surgoinsville Middle School eight-grade teachers Angelia Hensley and Cody Sauceman were recently awarded a Utrust mini-grant in the amount of $1,275 to pay for the project, which paired 23 selected students with residents of the Church Hill Health Care Center.

On Monday, each student shared a “working lunch” with his or her chosen resident and conducted an interview.

The eighth-graders will now write their subject’s story, which will be compiled into a hardcover book.

The books will be printed sometime in May, at which time the students will return to CHHCC to deliver a book to the resident they interviewed.

Hensley said most of the boys are interested in military history, so she tried to have each of them paired with a veteran.

“We had one resident interviewed who is a veteran of the D-Day landing,” Hensley said. “His name is Ubert McConnell, which ties in perfectly because our eighth-grade field trip is to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Those kids were just so shocked that he was actually there. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He’s so proud of his service to the country that in his room, even though he’s there temporarily, he’s got Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and pictures of him in uniform. The kids were just fascinated to talk to him.”

Girls had more of a emphasis on what life was like for a young lady during their subject’s time, as opposed to now.

Specifically SMS girls wanted to know what their subjects’ lifestyles, rights and expectations were when they were young.

Afterwards some of the girls asked Hensley to translate the terminology they’d heard, such as “working tobacco” and “breaking beans.”

“We also tried to get residents to talk about what life was like when they were young,” Hensley said. “Many of those residents talked to them about religion and the importance of church. They also talked to students about using common sense and always doing what’s right.

“Some of them also talked about the importance of family. I know they talked about cooking every meal and not eating out. They had to learn to can and store food for the winter. It’s one thing to read about something in a book or see it on TV, but it’s a different experience altogether to speak to a person who actually lived it.”

Utrust sent Hensley a letter stating, “This was one of the most creative projects that we’ve seen in years, and one that touches our hearts. We’re pleased to be able to fund such a project that will make a big difference.”

The book cover was also designed by students and features a tree with roots and leaves.

The names of the elder subjects who were interviewed were symbolically highlighted in the roots of the tree, while the names of the students were highlighted int he leaves.

"Their thought process on tis cover design was, they are the roots, and we are the new growth," Hensley said.                                                                                     

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