Students form cross-generational friendships and honor seniors by writing and illustrating their life stories

 June 2, 2014

Arlington, MA – New Covenant School today announced that its Elementary Director, Joanna Levy, received the Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association award for exemplary volunteer service to the residents at Sunrise Assisted Living of Arlington.  Joanna was chosen from among 175 nominees in seven categories as the Volunteer Award recipient at their 2014 Excellence Awards Dinner for her role in partnering her students with Sunrise seniors to write and illustrate their biographies.

About 8 years ago, Joanna approached Mary Morgan at Sunrise of Arlington with a request to pair her students with residents and record their life stories.  Every 2 years, New Covenant School students form relationships with Sunrise residents to create and illustrate their personal biographies.  Once completed, the biographies are presented to the Sunrise community at an event honoring the project participants and their families.

“This project is very close to my heart,” said Joanna Levy. “Students start the project unsure of this new relationship they’re about to form, wondering if they will have anything to talk about with their resident, or if the the person will even like them.  Then, through their interview sessions, things begin to change.   They begin to realize that their resident has lived through the Great Depression, World War II, or the Korean War, and then history becomes much more real to the students. Their view of elderly people begins to shift. They come to appreciate their wisdom and life experience, and understand that they are still vitally interested in the world around them. Each student makes a speech as they present the finished biography and share what they have gained from this experience.  They are so much richer for the friendships they have formed!”

“Joanna is the essence of an altruistic volunteer and community leader.  With her leadership, the students from New Covenant School form lasting relationships with the Sunrise residents and many come back on their own, year after year, to visit with their friends.  It turns out to be much more than a school project – it creates a bond of true friendship across generations,” said Mary Morgan, Director of Activities at Sunrise of Arlington.

The partnership between New Covenant School and Sunrise grew out of New Covenant School’s project-based learning philosophy, which is inspired by the principles of Expeditionary Learning (//  As part of New Covenant School’s commitment to learning through service, it has created numerous expeditionary projects to serve Arlington and the surrounding community such as a field guide to the Arlington Reservoir and an ABC book for LexFarm (//  One of New Covenant School’s mottos is “You haven’t really learned something until you’ve used it to serve others.”

New Covenant School

Founded in 1985, New Covenant School is a Christian School in greater Boston serving Preschool and Elementary students with an academically challenging and developmentally appropriate education for children in Preschool through Grade 6. At New Covenant School, students receive personal attention in small classes from teachers who love God, love children, and love learning.  For more information visit



Joanna Levy, Director of Elementary Program
 Leah Brekken, Marketing