For one hour every other Friday, our fifth-grade class at Powell Valley Elementary School, visits the residents of Rest Harbor Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center, a skilled nursing facility at 5905 S. E. Powell Valley Road in Gresham.
Our visits are part of the Silver Streak program, which was started by our teacher, Bill Savage, along with his fellow teacher, Lisa Sullivan, when they were working at Hollydale School in Gresham 25 years ago. A few years later, when he became a fifth-grade teacher at Powell Valley, Savage continued Silver Streak, he said, noting the Rest Harbor residents inspired the program's name.
'We wanted something lively and upbeat because we realized they had a lot of energy,' Savage said, adding that he enjoys the visits.
'It's a time to see the kids take charge and meet new friends,' he said.
Silver Streak taught us that those with disabilities, as well as the elderly, are just regular people. We have learned how to interact with people who are different through the residents of Rest Harbor.
We have made lots of friends visiting Rest Harbor. For example, we admire Janice, one of the residents, for her selflessness and positive attitude even after a hard life. Another memorable friend is Matt, who always gets a kick out of challenging us to thumb wrestling … and beating us. When we ask him how he is doing he shouts, 'Juuust great!'
Another friend, Harold, enjoys telling stories of when he lived in Alaska. In particular, he likes to talk about the time he was chased by a caribou.
'I was riding a bike,' Harold said. 'All of a sudden … here comes a big caribou! If he catches me he'll tear me apart!'
Another friend, Lewis, is a regular cowboy. He rode horses to school at our age and even herded cows. Lewis enjoys singing 'Home, Home on the Range' for us.
These are only a few of the friends we've made at Rest Harbor.
K'Lynn Larson, activities director at Rest Harbor, said she is very thankful that the Silver Streak kids continue to come year after year.
'The life and vitality the kids bring to our residents is amazing, and everyone benefits from the program,' she said.
Our teacher said other teachers should consider taking their students to retirement and rehabilitation centers.
'It sounds really difficult to organize, but once the students go and make friends it becomes the best part of the week,' Savage said.
Theresa Bryant, mother of our classmate Moriah Gallegly, provides transportation for our class and is glad the school supports Silver Streak.
'I think Mr. Savage sees the importance of this interaction,' she said. 'It teaches (the students) patience with communication.'
Sarina Roher, mother of our classmate Shalayah Roher, said it's valuable for children to be exposed to people with disabilities.
'At first they were shy, but now they look forward to it,' Roher said of the fifth graders.
- By Barlow High School student Alex Lange and Powell Valley Elementary School fifth-graders
Barlow senior organizes fifth-grade project
Alex Lange, a student at Barlow High School, has been studying journalism and assisted fifth-grade students at Powell Valley Elementary School in researching and composing this article, as part of his senior project. Outlook Staff Writer Rob Cullivan did additional reporting.
For confidentiality reasons, Rest Harbor residents are identified by first names only.
Fifth-graders Zach Standish, Shalayah Roher, Zander Norquist and Kaitlyn Mittendorf served on the fifth-grade editorial board and did interviews for the article.
Alex was himself once a student of Bill Savage, fifth-grade teacher at Powell Valley. Alex said he enjoyed working with Savage's students.
'I talked to them about how newspapers can alert the public when something good is happening and when something bad is happening,' Alex said.
Savage praised Alex for his efforts with the children.
'He really related well to those kids,' Savage said. He also noted that some of the fifth-graders have since expressed interest in pursuing journalism when they grow up.
The students worked hard on the article, Alex said. 'I wanted it to be their project.'