Students' personal experience with Alzheimer’s inspires creation of book

Feb 4, 2019

Three Mount St. Mary Academy High School students created a special activity book for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says as part of the school’s entrepreneurs program, the students published a book called Forget Me Not.  

Mount St. Mary Academy seniors were inspired by personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease to create their activity book.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"Both of my great grandmothers passed away from Alzheimer's," said Clarice Scarpace, a senior at Mount St. Mary.

Scarpace came up with the idea to create an activity book for Alzheimer patients after her family experience the disease.

"Coming up with this idea really is not only, I think, helping with Alzheimer’s across the board, but it's really  been really nice for my family and for me especially to have seen what Alzheimer’s can do, but has also been able to develop something that can help other patients,” explained Scarpace.

"We all have someone in our lives who suffers from Alzheimer’s and we knew we all wanted to make a difference for people with Alzheimer’s,” said Amanda Ackley, senior.

Seniors Ackley and Amelia Waddell learned about Scarpace’s idea and wanted to help develop her concept.  Both students also had family members who suffered from Alzheimer’s.

"My great-grandma, she recently passed in March from it and she was so excited about this coloring book,” Waddell noted.   

“My great Aunt Daisy -- she's still alive,” Ackley remarked.  

Students published a book called Forget Me Not.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Creating the cognitive coloring book wasn't a quick process. They began this project when they were in their second year of high school.  

“We started research and getting all together and all the pages in there, we drew ourselves. We have journals and puzzles and word searches - all with the goal to hopefully start a conversation between the patients and their loved ones or their caretakers,” Ackley said. 

“The word searches have like specific words in there that you would encounter in your everyday life or you would have in your memory – like school or from family members and things like that – so it’s just to spur memories and create good conversation between the patient and their loved ones,” Scarpace remarked.

“It's been a really great experience for all of us. We've really become great leaders throughout it. We've learned how to speak to people and promote our book and all our profits go to the Alzheimer’s Association and then we keep the other profits to reprint our books,” Waddell responded.

The students worked directly with the Alzheimer’s Association.  Scarpace said they organization supported the project, guided them on content and appeared before their board for approval before it was printed.

Students published a book called Forget Me Not.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“They flipped through our porotype of our book and we sat there, watching them, waiting to see what they thought and as soon as they finished, they just said a couple of changes of the wording of our mission statement and everything else they thought looked great – so we were really, really excited,” Scarpace recalled. “It really felt like a 'Shark Tank' episode.”

With that approval Alzheimer’s Association actually has their logo on the back of Forget Me Not.

"It's really incredible to see my students come up with an idea and really see it to the end,” remarked Kelsey Novits, teacher.

Novits also co-teaches in the Academy Scholars Program where students conduct entrepreneur work. She called this project “incredible.”

“They really did their research. They really looked into the background of it, but I think having that personal connection is really a driving force. Something we’ve talking about lately is how the book can help a family member connect with the member of their family that has Alzheimer’s and actually it can serve as a way to sit down with that person and connect and talk about memories and see what comes up,” Novits said.  While recording interviews with the students, that’s when they learned their website,  forgetmenotcoloringbook.com, went live.

“Oh my gosh, so cool - here it is,” the students declared. “I’m so happy.” 

During WBFO's visit, the website went live.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“We are very excited about this – it’s been road here,” Waddell replied.

It is their goal to get it into nursing care facilities and hospitals with their book. Students have already worked with some patients at the Weinberg Campus.