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Students make the season bright for local seniors

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The holiday time is said to be a time of peace, affection and goodwill to all.
Last week, Rocklin sixth-graders at Cobblestone Elementary used a field trip assignment to do just that.
“I think this program is cool because I like helping people and being there for them,” said 11-year-old Julissa King.
King and her classmates recently interviewed residents at Casa de Santa Fe Senior Living on Park Drive in Rocklin and then wrote biographies on their lives. The assignment is part of a curriculum called service learning, which creates understanding with community service.
Cobblestone instructor Alison Parrott knew combining the two age groups would teach more than the difference between biographies and autobiographies.
“This is great for the seniors and the children,” Parrott said.
She came up with this idea after her own experience with her grandfather.
“He was always lonely and wanted us to be there everyday. We couldn’t,” Parrott said.
Parrott’s student, King, sat down with 90-year-old retired nurse Sophie Gorowitz who shared a picture album.
“It’s wonderful,” Gorowitz said. “It is important for them to know what happened before. Maybe they’ll grow up and realize certain things, like tolerance.”
Last Wednesday, the class surprised the residents by presenting the typed biographies to the seniors along with homemade blankets. Then they stayed to chat, play musical instruments and sing carols. Ninety-two-year-old retired accountant Carol Shannon cried when 11-year-olds Bailey Curiel and Sunday Sallaz read her life story aloud.
“To me this is marvelous,” Shannon said. “This has been one of the nicest days of my life.”
The two girls empathized with Shannon’s childhood struggle, when at their same age, Shannon lost her father to pneumonia.
“Her father died when she was 11 years old,” Sallaz said. “She had to live with her grandma. She didn’t have very much food because it was the Great Depression.”
They also learned something on a lighter note.
“She was born on Christmas, that’s why her name is Carol,” Curiel said.
Together the three shared hugs before joining the rest of group in singing “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells” and other holiday favorites.
“They were absolutely precious,” Shannon said. “I would take them for my own, in a minute. I never had any children and I’ve regretted it all my life.”
Shannon hopes they take home more than a lesson on biographies.
“Her advice, work very hard,” Sallaz said. “All those hard times made her strong.”
For King, the bond she formed during the assignment inspired her to put in a little extra effort for no grade at all.
“I talked to my mom and I’m going to visit her again,” King said.
Her field trip turned into an unlikely friendship.

For more photos: Cobblestone students share holidays with seniors