august and eva

Back in October 2009, while I was part of the Chicago Tribune’s Emotional Engagement Team, I started photographing a story idea by writer Ted Gregory.

The idea was to follow a small group of South Chicago high schoolers from BEST (Bowen  Environmental Studies Team) as they took part in the Memory Bridge program. Memory Bridge is a 12-week program that brings students together with dementia patients. The BEST kids were teamed with seniors at Montgomery Place, a Hyde Park neighborhood retirement home.

The students visited their “buddies” every other week over the course of the program. On the non-visit weeks, the teens would meet at school and discuss their visits and work on team-building exercises.

Memory Bridge was founded in 2005 by Lake Forest Academy teacher Michael Verde.

In 2006, the Chicago Public Schools started incorporating the program into some of its schools.

Ted and I chronicled the program until it finished in January of this year.

Like most of the stories I do, I started out covering the entire Memory Bridge group- all ten students and their buddies.

My plan was to find one pair to concentrate on.

By the second visit, it was obvious that my focus would be on 14-year-old August Averett and 83-year-old Eva Weinberg.

August and Eva got along well despite their generational and cultural differences.

August hung in there during the visits when Eva would become agitated when she would lose track of time and think that she was late for dinner with her husband.

It was wonderful to watch the change in the students as they became attached to their new found friends. It was equally heartbreaking when each week the students would leave the seniors behind each seated next to an empty chair.

My favorite moment by far over the 3 months was when August greeted Eva as the BEST students arrived for their second meeting.

When August reached her arms out to greet her buddy, Eva blurted out, “I remember you!”

©2010 Scott Strazzante/ Chicago Tribune

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: