Old meet young at Towers to bridge generations

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The program, billed as an...

By Adam Kramer

In an effort to preserve history and bring together two generations separated by more then 50 years, residents of North Shore Towers and students at MS 67 sat down to discuss their lives, histories and concerns.

The program, billed as an intergenerational dialogue, took place Monday at North Shore Towers, a self-contained housing complex which sits along the Grand Central Parkway’s service road in New Hyde Park. It brought together eight student members in grades 6 through 9 of MS 67’s Student Council and 10 residents of the co-op.

“This is one of the keys to our educational goals,” said Mae Fong, principal of MS 67, the Louis Pasture School at 51-60 Marathon Parkway in Little Neck. “We have kids focused on academics [but] another one of our primary goals is to teach the students to relate to other people, regardless of the person’s age.”

She said the intergenerational program is just one of the many different programs the school holds to help teach its students to connect with members of the community.

Abe Schargel, a resident of North Shore Towers and a District 26 School Board member, came up with the idea for the program after he read a New York Times article about a similar program set up two years ago at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

“I went to Deputy Superintendent Anita Saunders, who was with Superintendent Claire McIntee,” he said. “They said, ‘Sure, let’s do it’ and we chose MS 67.”

Polly Nikolovienis, 14, of Douglaston said the meeting allowed the community to come together and discuss the differences between the generations. She said the environment the adults grew up in was completely different from today’s society.

“We get to share experiences with each other and learn a lot about the different age groups that live in the community,” said Erica Menchin, 15, from Little Neck. “It is interesting learning what other people did at our age when they were growing up.”

Bonnie Cooper, who has lived in North Shore for the past 13 years, said people learn through other people’s experiences and this program gives the residents a chance to share their lives and impart their knowledge to another generation.

Paula Plafker, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, talked about coming to the United States when she was 12 years old. When she arrived, she did not speak the language.

“I had no guidance and no English as a second language,” she said. “I was shy and scared and nobody treated me right. They even took my name — Peppy — and gave me an American name, ‘Paula.’ It was not until I became a grandma that I took it back. I am now known as ‘Grandma Peppy.’”

The one thing that all of the residents tried to impart to the students was the need to get an education and use the public school to the fullest advantage. All the residents had fond memories of college, whether they went on the G.I. Bill after World War II or completed their degrees after their family was grown.

“I did not get my undergraduate and master’s degree until my kids had grown up,” said Cooper. “I taught school for 10 years and it was some of the best years of my life.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at, or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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