Tribune Print Share Text

Neighbor to neighbor

Shared experiences span the generations

Created date

May 21st, 2013

When the Harmony School of Business opened just across Frankford Road from Highland Springs, residents of the North Dallas Erickson Living community were among the first to welcome their new neighbors. Four years ago, the University of Texas at Dallas began inviting residents to campus and sending professors to speak here as part of their Good Neighbor program, says Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator at Highland Springs. Now that we re in such close proximity to the Harmony School, it s our turn to be good neighbors. The Harmony School of Business is a K-8 charter school that promotes science, mathematics, computer technology, and engineering. It opened its doors last fall for the 2012-2013 school year. Many of our students are from other countries and don t live close to their extended families, says Christy Drekaj, assistant principal at the Harmony School. Our partnership with Highland Springs allows the students to interact with the residents as they would with their grandparents.

Intergenerational ties

On Valentine s Day, Harmony students made cards for Highland Springs residents. A few weeks later, residents in the Write a Memory class at Highland Springs invited the 13- and 14-year-old students to join them for an afternoon. Each week, participants in the Write a Memory class write about a specific topic, says Blachly. The topic that week was Write about something that happened when you were 13 or 14. We thought it would be fun to invite students of that age to hear what the residents wrote. We had 28 students join us. They noticed that some of the residents experiences weren t too different from their own. In mid-April, a group of sixth and seventh grade students walked over to Highland Springs for a living history lesson. Our students were studying World War II, says Drekaj. What better way to learn than from veterans who lived through it? Those first-hand accounts were so much more valuable than reading about the war in a textbook or listening to a teacher lecture on the subject.

Eyewitness account

Highland Springs resident Herb Hoxie was a Navy pilot with a patrol bomber squadron based in the Pacific. I enlisted in the Navy while I was in college, says Herb. I came in at the end of the war and served at Eniwetok, Tinian, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima. When the students from Harmony School arrived at Highland Springs, they were divided into small groups and assigned to a resident. I shared with my group a little bit about the causes of the war how the United States was pursuing an isolationist strategy but the attack on Pearl Harbor forced us to take action, says Herb. I showed them a map of the Pacific that we used during the war and cards that we used to identify Allied and enemy planes. The students were bright eyed and very attentive.

Sharing their expertise

Herb also mentioned that he worked for the FBI after the war. After we finished talking with our small groups, one of the teachers asked if I would be willing to come to the school and talk with the students about the FBI, says Herb. I told her I would, so we ll see what comes of that. I like talking with the students. The feeling is mutual. Our students enjoy visiting Highland Springs, says Drekaj. They think the residents are cool.