By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - At high schools everywhere, this is the time of year when graduating seniors say goodbye to their classmates and to their friends.
For a group of seniors at Bearden High School, it's also a time to say goodbye to a very special group.
They are graduating seniors, members of the Bearden High School a cappella group "Off the Chain."
Recently, near the end of their high school careers, they performed with their fellow classmates, perhaps for the last time.
"It honestly makes me tear up every time I think about it, because it feels like you're leaving all these wonderful people behind and you don't know what's coming in the future," said senior Ellen Kliebhan.
And while the moment was bittersweet, their performance was all joy. And why not? Their audience was a special group of seniors, too: the seniors of Echo Ridge.
"Oh I think they're wonderful. They've been here, not this group, but they've been here before and it's always great to have them," said Echo Ridge resident Delphine Hengsler.
Bearden High School and Echo Ridge have developed a special bond over the years. The school and the residential facility are next door neighbors.
"They have helped us tremendously over the years. We mail 2,000 newsletters quarterly and they're folding those and putting them together for us and in turn we're providing interaction, musical events things like that," said Judith Pelot.
You might be tempted to think that the interactions of these two groups is a one-way street, with the seniors of Echo Ridge getting the most out of it.
You would be wrong.
"I think the seniors at Bearden can learn a lot from our seniors. We have very intelligent people who've been through a lot in their lives and they have a lot to each. So it's a good learning situation for both of them," said Amy Bennett of Echo Ridge.
"I love it, honestly. I just like getting to come and seeing everybody and the talking afterwards is my favorite part," said Kliebhan. "They're always so sweet and kind and I just love giving back to them. It's a learning experience."
"It's been a great experience just being around them. It's always a good feeling they always make you feel warm. You feel at home. And I really enjoy singing for them," student Taylor Beckett.
Two groups of seniors - one finishing their journey, the other just beginning theirs. All enjoying each other - an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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