Students Help Seniors Share Their Legacy


Junior Hailey MacDonald and senior Tony DiGiore finish their interview for the Rotary Legacy Project.

Gabrielle Daley, Contributing Reporter

On February 16, 2017, junior Hailey MacDonald interviewed Tony DiGiore, a musician who has lived in West Springfield his whole life; marking the beginning of a collaborative project between the Rotary Club of West Springfield and West Springfield High School. Throughout the rest of the year and hopefully, every school year from now on, students who volunteer will interview senior citizens to learn their life stories. A video of the interview will be given to each of the participants.

The Rotary Club of West Side is a service club who is organizing and sponsoring the project as a community service to the senior population in the town. Their goal is to understand how people in the same town lived their lives differently generations ago, and the legacy they left behind that shaped the town. “There is a difference between how I grew up compared to most people today. I bet you can’t imagine living without a television, or a phone you can just use,” 91 year-old interviewee Walter DeFilippi remarked.

The student interviewers ask their senior interviewees a series of questions relating to West Side and the senior’s life within a block of two-three hours. The interviews are recorded in the WSHS Innovation Studio. The recordings will be edited and analyzed by the Video Production students to create a movie for each of the seniors, consisting of approximately 45 minutes. When all the seniors are interviewed, the Video Production students will also create a 20 minute highlights presentation that includes segments of all the interviews, documenting West Side History orally and digitally.

After Toni DiGiore’s interview, Hailey MacDonald learned the life story of retired US Marshall, George Kelly, who in his lifetime met JFK. On March 6th and 13th senior Arianna Albano conducted interviews and helped seniors tell their stories. Seniors recalled tales of growing up in West Springfield during the Great Depression and the changes they’ve seen in the town. Throughout her interview with Walt DeFillippi, Ariana learned exactly how different her life growing up now is compared to the man’s sitting in front of her. “He told me that he didn’t shower everyday, and it was more like once a week growing up. He would bathe in used water that was heated on the stove, the females in his house were the first to wash in the water,” Arianna Albano remarked.

Students and seniors find the Rotary Legacy Project is a great way to appreciate life and history – it’s a learning experience. “I think it’s a privilege to be interviewed,” said West Springfield senior Elena White. Seniors are often excited and even nervous when they walk into the studio and see all the lighting and mics needed for their interviews. Student interviewees are also happy to learn something new outside of class. “I had a great experience interviewing. The opportunity is amazing because the seniors tell you things you wouldn’t just read in a history book or see while watching a movie. Learning about the seniors lives is definitely eye opening: how smart they are; how every story and opinion is different; their experiences and descriptions of a historical period,” added Arianna Albano. The interviews will continue on Monday afternoons after school. Students interested in interviewing are encouraged to contact Newspaper Adviser, Ms. Corduff for more information.

There will be a celebration on June 24, 2017 in which the student interviewers, senior interviewees, and their families will be presented the brief highlights video and flashdrives with the individual recording of their edited interview. The mayor and city council will also attend this celebration of West Side history. The individual interviews and the highlights video will also be aired on Channel 15 and linked to the town website.

“It’s an opportunity for the West Springfield seniors to share their life stories and leave a legacy for their families; and also have history for for future generations,” Kim Landry, Chair of the Rotary’s Service Projects stated.The documentary DVDs will be archived in the West Springfield Public Library for anyone looking for information about family history years in the future or even just for pleasure. Thanks to the generosity of the Rotary Club, student interviewers and Video Production students can work together to create a lasting record of the legacies people have left behind on West Springfield.


Former US Marshall, George Kelly, was interviewed for the West Springfield Rotary Legacy Project.