From left to right: Angelina Graceffa, Macy Bush, Hope Bramhall, Val Rand, Ann Knowles, Holly MacEwan, Gail Shand, Dave Barrett, Dick Shand. Sydney Richelieu / The Forecaster

For nearly 20 years, retired residents and Falmouth High School students have been gathering at OceanView Retirement Community in Falmouth. There are no phones allowed – instead, the residents and students look each other in the eye and listen well to stories and words of advice.

Holly MacEwan originally started Wisdom Tea in 2003 when her grandmother was living at OceanView. At the time, it was just MacEwan, a few friends, her grandmother and her grandmother’s neighbor.

After becoming a teacher at Falmouth High School in 2006, MacEwan began bringing students to Wisdom Tea. Suddenly, it took on a whole new meaning.

“It was so much more purposeful when the students were here because they were gaining so much more confidence, knowledge and wisdom from being nurtured by the elders,” MacEwan said. “It became much more meaningful because a lot of them don’t have grandparents nearby, and the elders here step into that role.”

Wisdom Tea gatherings are facilitated by students; each of the monthly gatherings has a theme that allows students and residents to focus their conversations around a specific topic such as food, life challenges and transitions.

Val Rand, a junior at Falmouth High School, started coming to Wisdom Tea during her sophomore year. Since then, she has become a facilitator, reconnected with an old neighbor and formed lasting relationships with residents at OceanView.


“OceanView is such a big part of our community in Falmouth and I think to get connected to it, even if you don’t have a relative here, is important,” Rand said. “We all take stuff from it that we’re never going to forget.”

Residents are happy, and even eager, to share their stories and wisdom with the students.

Dave Barrett, a resident at OceanView, shared a story about a mentor in his own life who was instrumental in helping him become the person he is today. Barrett describes him as someone who taught him the values of being generous and giving back to other people, and how to be a mentor himself.

“I realize now that the mentor I had in my life is beginning to come out in me,” Barrett said. “It feels really valuable to me to be in a position to do anything I can to help anybody I can.”

An OceanView resident who survived the Holocaust has shared her story with the students at Wisdom Tea. Another resident, who is a World War II veteran, has shared his. It’s stories like these that impact the students and they leave Wisdom Tea with a different outlook that they may not have had before, the students said.

Angelina Graceffa, a senior at Falmouth High School, has been coming to OceanView since she was in second grade. Now a facilitator of Wisdom Tea, Graceffa said she has learned so much from residents with different backgrounds and unique experiences. The residents give great advice on topics like college and friends, she said, and she has never felt nervous sharing her thoughts with them.


“I really can’t imagine my high school career without Wisdom Tea and our school’s relationship with OceanView,” Graceffa said. “It’s been such an integral part of my time here.”

Since they are not related to the residents, the students feel it is easier to share their concerns and worries about struggles they are facing. Dick Shand, a resident at OceanView, calls Wisdom Tea a “clean slate” for the students.

“It’s a different relationship with the kids,” Shand said.

Macy Bush, a junior, said her biggest takeaway from Wisdom Tea has been the perspective she’s gotten from the residents. No matter what, people make mistakes, and Bush said the guidance she receives from the residents is helpful in reminding her that it’s going to be okay.

“It’s helpful to have people like the residents to give you advice,” Bush said.

The residents could probably write books with the advice and wisdom they share with the students, but for now, the students will continue to take the wisdom with them.

“We all give gifts to each other and getting together creates the environment and the opportunity to be open, honest and to share,” Barrett said. “I’m really inspired by each of the students.”

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