LACONIA — Students in the Laconia Alternative Education Program showed their appreciation for their across the hall neighbors at the Laconia Senior Center yesterday by buying them a meal and helping serve it to them.
''It was very thoughtful of them. They're nice kids, polite and respectful and we love having them around. They're doing a good job next door,'' said Lorraine Parkhurst, one of about 40 senior citizens who took part in the meal.
Seth Leavitt-Carlson, director of the program, said that the students have developed a close relationship with the senior citizens and wanted to do something special for them.
''They came up with the idea all on their own. The students are very involved with the seniors and help put together Christmas or Easter bags for their programs. Some even decorated the dining hall for Christmas and last Halloween they served as judges for the costume contest the seniors held.'' said Carlson.
The students have also made a transition in their own lives, going from classroom failure and a feeling that they don't count, to a sense of motivation and accomplishment, proving to themselves that although they may not have fit into a regular classroom they do not lack for skills and ability.
They take math, social studies, science, art and English and the small class and individualized instruction they have received is paying huge benefits and pointing the way to a brighter future for them.
''I'm doing a lot better here than at any other school I've ever gone to,'' says Nate Dumensil, who started attending classes in January. ''I did not do a single paper in middle school and was starting out my freshman year the same way. A high school guidance counselor recommended I come here and I started to get help in my courses and now I'm getting A's in most of them,'' he says.
Nina Chase has had the same experience. ''I was failing all my classes at Winnisquam Regional High School and now I'm getting high honors. Having this kind of support makes you feel confident about yourself and that means a lot,'' says Chase.
Chase listened intently as Keith Shoemaker, 64, told her how he had met the challenges of raising a large family and how he had seen young people who might have been good candidates for the Alternative School Program blossom and develop into fine educators in the Laconia school system.
Danielle Morin told senior citizens Gemma Hamel, Cecile Campbell and Lorraine Parkhurst that she is also feeling good about her development since she became a part of the Alternative School Program and impressed them when she said she wanted to become a marine biologist.
''Why that's wonderful dear. You stick to your guns and you can do it,'' said Hamel.
Tresean Small helped Dougie Horne and Tyler St. Onge serve milk and then soup to the senior citizens and got praise from them for their good manners and the respect they show for all people.
''They're great kids and it's really nice to see kids who are polite and not swearing or causing trouble,'' said Herman Kimball, who has lived all of his life in the Lakes Region on Meredith and Gilford.
Small got to hear Hannelore Spence, who was born in Germany in 1934 and now lives at Beacon Street West describe some of the interesting events in her life.
''I've always wanted to write my memoirs, but I talk too much to do that,'' joked Spence, who said it was a real treat to have the young people around and be able to share parts of her life with them.
Danielle Morin, a student in the Laconia Alternative Education Program, talks with Cecile Campbell and Gemma Hamel at the Laconia Senior Center. Students at the school bought lunch for senior citizens yesterday and helped serve the meal, which featured salad, butternut squash soup, macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes and cake and ice cream for dessert. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)