Virtual connections turned to reality for 7th grade

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TBS Religious School artistic gift presentation to The Atria on Roslyn Harbor as a culmination gift. Present are (left to right) Hanna Harel, TBS Grant Coordinator, Anthony Gonzalez, Executive Director of The Atria, Meagan Devine-Collazo, Senior Engage Life Director, Sharon Solomon, Educational Director-Community Engagement and Silvia Kogan, Religious School Assistant Principal.

By Sharon Solomon and Hanna Harel
As the Temple Beth Shalom school year comes to a close, we reflect back upon what has been a rollercoaster of a year.

Our 7th grade class made a tremendous impact in our direct and broader community. Our partnership with the seniors at the Atria on Roslyn Harbor, made possible by the Legacy Heritage Better Together Grant, took an alternative course this year. With COVID restrictions still enforced, our relationships with the seniors turned virtually.

We gathered on Zoom to share stories, celebrate holidays, do activities, and even had the wonderful opportunity to turn to pen and paper and have a pen-pal. Following our joyous live outdoor Chanukah Concert streamed via Zoom, spearheaded by our TBS Director Sharon Solomon, the new year rolled in with a series of new beginnings.

Despite our 7th grade students learning from home and our senior buddies battling a host of COVID-related restrictions, our Atria-TBS partnership overcame obstacles and persevered. Friendships and relationships strengthened as students now had a fluid way to communicate with their buddies through email and video.

During the winter holidays, we celebrated with our senior buddies by delivering Hamantaschen cookies to the Atria along with Purim cards written by the students. In March, we had guest author and educator, Jared Harel, present a program entitled, “Wishing Upon A Star.”

This uplifting, inspirational Zoom-session encouraged students to articulate their hopes and desires in a post-pandemic world. Harel taught them about repetition and refrains in both poetry and song. The students then compiled their wishes into one collective, inspirational poem, which they artistically designed with a picture of a senior embracing a child surrounded by twinkling stars, a plane, and the hopes of many.

A creative “foiled star project” was designed by both students and seniors, then exchanged with one another. TBS picked John Lennon’s song “Imagine” as a symbol of our strength, resilience, and care.

Working under such unique circumstances, our students and seniors understood there was room for flexibility and growth to reimagine how we connect. Our “End Of The Year Program” has been postponed to this upcoming September, where an outdoor sing-along led by our Cantor at the Atria will be held for our students and buddies to meet in-person.

Students are grateful and truly excited for this opportunity to meet their buddies and continue growing strong relationships. A unique artistic gift of photos of students and seniors “Hand in Hand” was presented on Monday, June 21 to the Atria on behalf of Temple Beth Sholom and the 7th grade class at this event.

Our 7th grade class overcame the challenges of remote learning and found meaning in creating virtual connections. Our students were able to exceed expectations and create deep personal connections with their senior buddies.

Some students even invited buddies to their virtual Bar Mitzvah ceremony, a true testament to how amazing our students are. While we have become accustomed to our virtual connections, our class remains optimistic that these connections will grow ever stronger in-person in the coming year.

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