Seniors share past with Lynch students

Jonathan Nelson and Emily Hastings, both 13 and students at the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy, sp
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Jonathan Nelson and Emily Hastings, both 13 and students at the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy, spent the afternoon Friday in awe of a man who had finished six Boston marathons.

The man was Dr. Tom Achtyl, who was a physician in Amsterdam for many years before sustaining a brain injury in a bicycle accident.

Nelson and Hastings, both members of the school’s track team, listened to Achtyl tell stories about running up Heartbreak Hill and offer tips about his favorite types of running shoes during an event designed to give students more interaction with the community.

Four seniors from the Wilkinson Center at Amsterdam Memorial Hospital took a trip to Lynch Academy Friday to discuss their lives with 18 students.

The event grew out of an idea from Wilkinson Center activities coordinator Michele Bauer to have seniors interact with younger members of the community. She contacted Lynch Principal Thomas Perillo, who put her in touch with student council adviser Michele Downing.

Downing thought having seniors visit would be a good way for the students to connect with members of the community and learn about the past.

“Middle school students are into their own worlds, and it’s important for them to look outside their bubbles,” she said. “This gives them a chance to count their blessings and see what these older people went through back then.”

Fran Boyer, literacy coach and adviser for the National Junior Honor Society, involved some of her eighth grade students and the group had discussions about what life was like 50 years ago. They discussed, bowling, running, the cost of gas, what games they played and who their friends were.

Seniors like Lou Frollo, who at one time worked at Imperial Lanes, told funny stories about his past and remembered a time when someone was paid to stand up the bowling pins after each frame and was paid 5 cents a game.

One senior, Dorothy McClumpha, said the group of girls she spoke with were “a nice bunch of girls, with good goals.”

“They were very level-headed,” she said. “They weren’t a crazy bunch of kids. You know what I mean, they paid attention.”

Betty Wells said she was surprised to find that youngsters were interested in many of the same topics as she was when she was their age.

“They are surprisingly the same overall, just more computer oriented,” she said.

Brooke Arnold, 14, said she enjoyed talking with the seniors. She spent most of the afternoon talking to Dr. Achtyl and found that both shared similarities in their backgrounds, including farming and having had the same type of dog as children. They also played similar games and enjoyed all types of sports.

“It was interesting to see what life was like from their point of view,” she said.

Downing said she wanted to foster those intergenerational connections throughout the school year and hoped to have seniors back in the future.

Even though back pain made him uncomfortable as the afternoon wore on, Achtyl said he was sad to return to the Wilkinson Center and hoped he would be invited back to the school soon.

“It’s been a long day,” he said, “but a short trip.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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