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Mitzi Bond students premiere documentary on yearlong research into senior citizens

Gift of Age 2019-2020
Gift of Age 2019-2020

This documentary was produced by the fourth-grade GT class at Bond Elementary School.

MITZI BOND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL -- May 19, 2020) — All school year long, gifted-and-talented students from Bond Elementary spent time interviewing and getting to know the residents of the Legacy at Cimarron in hopes of producing a documentary on the retired residents who live there.

And while the pandemic got in the way of having a worthy world premiere, teacher Emilse Font’s fourth-grade students still got to show their “The Gift of Age” documentary last week via teleconferencing to the stars of the film: the seniors at Legacy.

The documentary captured the lives of the interesting residents of the Legacy on video, featuring important information such as their birth, careers, families and special life stories.

“The idea behind the project is to get students to think beyond themselves and look at ways to promote an understanding of different generations,” Font said. “Students were partnered with elderly people in our community that were not family members. This brought students out of their elderly comfort zone and provided them with a more realistic life experience.”

She wanted to do a more formal debut of the documentary for the students and residents with a dinner, but the times called for a virtual watch party on WebEx. The students got to watch their project while the residents excitedly saw their individual segments. 

“The residents loved the company of the children but loved telling their stories because they have great stories,” said Eddie Hernandez, Legacy’s lifestyle director. “I’ve seen the kids grow up as people. Their lives have basically changed a little during this project. It’s a beautiful transition – one of the best projects we run here with the community.”

Kai Maskell got to meet Leonore Mendelsohn, a two-time Emmy Award winner and graduate of El Paso High. Born in 1939, Mendelsohn left the city and lived in different European countries with her husband who was in the military. She later moved to St. Louis before returning to El Paso to retire. 

“This project it changed me,” Kai said. “Now when I think of elderly, I think of them as story tellers rather than people.” 

He enjoyed visiting with Mendelsohn and learning from her.

“I like history – especially learning it from another person’s perspective,” Kai said. “It was fun to go to see the residents.” 

The initial introductions of Legacy residents – age 71 to 92 – and students were made in the classroom. Students were apprehensive at first, but quickly forgot their fears after residents showed genuine excitement in seeing the kids. 

“In the several months spent learning about their new friends, meaningful relationships were formed,” Font said. “The support of my principal, Rachel Villalobos, and the parents were fundamental for the success of this project. I am grateful for the parents' sacrifice in committing the time to drive their children to visit the retirement community.”

Story by Reneé De Santos