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78 teachers & students from a Racine school collaborated virtually to create hope-filled video for senior citizens
Jefferson Lighthouse

78 teachers & students from a Racine school collaborated virtually to create hope-filled video for senior citizens

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Lighthouse video

Jefferson Lighthouse students and staff come together in a video sharing a positive holiday message with senior citizens in the hopes of helping seniors who might be confined due to COVID precautions to feel less alone. 

RACINE — Local students want cooped up senior citizens to know: “Whether you are just down the road or across the country, Jefferson Lighthouse Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin is thinking of you.”

That’s just part of a message that Lighthouse students and staff are sharing through a video aimed at connecting with seniors who might not be able to visit family right now.

In the video, each student and staff member holds a piece of paper displaying one word, which when put together makes up a message of hope.

Fourth-grader Dani Billips decorated her word, “you,” by surrounding it with hearts.

“When I actually saw the finished product, it made me feel like we could actually connect with those who feel alone,” she said.

The idea for the video came from conversations between Kelly DeCheck and Robin Zigas, both teachers at the school as well as co-student leadership coordinators. They decided that sharing a video would be a good way to connect to people who are physically confined due to COVID precautions and to live the school’s International Baccalaureate mission of making the world a more peaceful and better place.

DeCheck reached out to staff and families to gauge interest and said she was shocked to receive responses from 78 people. The women initially created two sentences for the video, made up of 25 words but had to lengthen the message so that everyone could participate.

She assigned everyone their own word and asked them to decorate it however they pleased, snap a photo of themselves holding it and send it to her so she could create the video. Once it was finished, DeCheck invited participants to share the video via social media or email the link to family members.

Lighthouse Principal Jeremy Benishek said that seeing the video made his day and was an example of the school community truly “living our mission and our vision.”

“It just makes me so proud of the collective action everyone has taken here,” he said.

Connecting with locals

DeCheck reached out to around 30 area assisted living and nursing homes last week to share the video.

“Many of them got back to me with a very positive response,” DeCheck said. “They said they were so excited to pass it along to their enrichment coordinators that they have at their facilities and were just so thankful that we thought enough of their residents who are often forgotten.”

Zigas feels that in a time when people are questioning whether people can truly connect with one another virtually, with so much schooling and work taking place online, the video is an example that they can.

“We can connect emotionally through music, through words,” she said.

IB connection

Colleen Strain, the school’s International Baccalaureate Programme coordinator and associate principal, said she started tearing up as she watched the video. It made her think of how the IB Programme is about more than just learning facts and understanding concepts.

“It’s about what we do, like prioritizing people to make the world a better place,” she said.

Because some senior citizens can’t see their families in person right now, Billips said she hopes the video helps them to feel hopeful and loved.

“I hope they feel connected to their loved ones and people who respect them,” she said.


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Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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