Storied Lives: Mother Seton Students Make a Connection to the Elderly Through Writing

Mother Seton Students participated in the Storied Lives program with local senior citizens. Credits: Mother Seton
Students read the stories of their seniors to the audience at the closing ceremony of the program. Credits: Mother Seton
Credits: Mother Seton
Credits: Mother Seton
Credits: Mother Seton
Credits: Mother Seton

CLARK, NJ - Since 2014, Mother Seton Regional High School students have been participating in Storied Lives, a program which enables imaginative and service-minded high school students to pay tribute to the elderly by writing stories about their lives.  The program was originally founded by a father and daughter, Tariq and Zeenie Sharif, in 2012 in Morristown, NJ.  The Sharifs’ goal was to create a unique program which would enable generations to connect through the process of interviewing and writing about the lives of senior citizens.

The program consists of an Opening Ceremony, where the girls are introduced to, and interview, a senior from their community.  They then arrange future dates to meet again for further discussions.  Through these meetings, the students get to know the interviewees and hopefully discover interesting facts and derive inspiration from their life stories. 

Once the students obtain enough information, they write a story, poem or essay honoring that individual’s life.  The story, poem or essay is presented to the senior, often in the presence of their families  during the Closing Ceremony, which tends to evoke an emotional response from all involved. 

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In 2014, then Mother Seton junior Alyssa Ziobro was interested in forming a Storied Lives program at the school.  She approached Mrs. Natalie Rotolo, one of the school’s English teachers, who willingly volunteered to become its Program Supervisor.  Under the guidance of Tariq and Zeenie, Alyssa and Mrs. Rotolo partnered with Sunrise of Westfield, a senior living facility located in Westfield, NJ. 

In addition to helping launch the program, Alyssa served as that year’s Program Leader and created and developed the Storied Lives website.  Every year, a new program leader is chosen and serves as the liaison between the students participating in the program and Sunrise.  The program leader is responsible for ensuring that the girls’ stories are submitted on time and the interviews run smoothly. 

The program has been a resounding success due to the support of Miss Joan Barron, Principal at Mother Seton, and Alyssa’s mother, Kristina Ziobro.  Mrs. Ziobro has not only been part of the program since its inception, but also established the relationship between Mother Seton and Sunrise. 

Although Alyssa has graduated and is currently attending the Maryland Institute of Art, both she and her mother have continued to be extremely supportive of the program and still make every effort to attend the Opening and Closing ceremonies. 

“The Mother Seton community will forever be indebted to them for introducing such a wonderful and rewarding program to the school.  It bridges the gap between the young and the old, and allows the girls to learn about history from a person who lived it,” said Rotolo. 


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