Today we celebrate Isabella as she prepares to graduate from the Nightingale-Bamford School and move on to Yale when the school year starts.
A beacon for her generation and a beloved and dedicated Sweet Reader and Young Leader, Isabella will be sorely missed. Please join me in celebration of Isabella’s important rite of passage and be inspired by some of her beautiful impact over the years.
Isabella first came to my attention when she volunteered to be a 7thgrade Sweet Reader. From her very first training, I was struck by Isabella’s poise, humility and graciousness.
Isabella’s first partner was a resident at the New Jewish Home, Rosetta, whom she met during one of our programs at The Jewish Museum.
“My great grandmother had dementia and when I was in 7thgrade, I heard about this program and decided to volunteer. I had this incredible partner, her name was Rosetta. We made such an incredible bond. Not only did I see how our sessions were helping her, they were helping me so much. I had my confidence increased. I was a shier kid and felt like I could facilitate a connection and if I ever had a bad day, [time with Rosetta] was a highlight for me. We definitely became friends more than program partners.”
As Isabella discovered, “The humanities portion of the brain, that portion that deals with poetry, art and music, is one of the last parts of the brain that is effected when someone has Alzheimer’s disease, so engaging in the arts is something they can do and something they can benefit from. Also, a lot of people with Alzheimer’s are isolated in their communities. They’re in care homes, and they’re just not given enough attention and time. To be able to have a conversation with a younger person can really help them.”
When Isabella started high school, she was accepted into our Leadership Council where high school students are empowered to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and brain health and help to build new Sweet Readers communities. Immediately Isabella set her sights on Canada, where her parents were educated. She was determined to bring Sweet Readers to Canadian communities and joyfully researched local schools and eldercare centers. After a successful pilot in Sherbrooke during her freshman year, Isabella then brought Sweet Readers to Toronto as a Junior. Just as Sophie prepared Isabella for the Sherbrooke pilot, Isabella trained Ella and Regina, Nightingale classmates, to join her in training the St. Clement’s School faculty and students to engage with the adults at Hazelton Place in Toronto. What a heartwarming success! And like everything else she does, Isabella ran the trainings and facilitated the pilot with excellent preparation, grace and humility.
This year Isabella was unanimously voted co-head of our Leadership Council and just as Isabella was looking forward to celebrating Senior spring after many years of dedicated learning and preparing, the pandemic set in. once again, Isabella stepped up – offering to help in any way, always with generosity and grace. Isabella helped us launch the new platform, filmed PSA’s, training modules and took this opportunity to connect again, directly with isolated adults in need.
Last Friday, in one of her last sessions of the school year, Isabella facilitated a program with Rose, using the Sweet Readers Storytelling Module she helped to produce. How fitting that Isabella started with Rosetta and ended with Rose. Like a Rose, Isabella is strong and beautiful and will, no doubt, continue to bring joy to those who have the honor of being in her presence.
Congratulations Isabella and thank you for helping so many isolated adults in need as well as all of the students and teachers you have empowered to follow in your footsteps!