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A Song of Hope
Homebound Student Performs at Mothlight
Posted on 06/27/2018
Brooklyn Reese, right, sits with her family at Echo Mountain Recording Studio.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

Brooklyn Reese beamed as her song filled Echo Mountain Recording Studio during a listening party on Tuesday.

“You’ve been there the whole way with me,” she sang. “I know it’s hard, but you’ve been there beside me. We can do it. We can do it. I love you, mom.”

The 12-year-old Joe P. Eblen Intermediate School student hasn’t been in class for more than two years as she battles a rare blood disorder, but she’s been busy. Brooklyn has become an aspiring songwriter, and her original tune, “I Love You, Mom,” is one of eight tracks on Heartbeat Sessions, Volume One. The gorgeous, eclectic mix of covers and originals all start with the recorded heartbeat of a child with a serious illness.

The album features Brooklyn and two other BCS students, 15-year-old Brian (“Stayin’ Alive” Bee Gees Cover) and 11-year-old Jesse (“Hallelujah” Leonard Cohen cover). Technicians at Echo Mountain Recording Studio recorded each child’s heartbeat using a special stethoscope, then artists – from fiddlers to keyboardists to gospel singers – volunteered their time to compose beautiful covers and lay down tracks at Echo Mountain. The result, Heartbeat Sessions, premiered live at the Mothlight in West Asheville on Wednesday, June 27. Brooklyn, who performed her song live for the first time, was rehearsing before the listening party on Tuesday.

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m excited but nervous. I’m nervo-cited.”

Brooklyn said she wrote her song one night at 4 a.m. while the machines kept her awake at the hospital.

“I just decided to write my mom a song, and it turned into all this” she said. “We’ve been through so many things.”

“She wrote a really heartfelt, wonderful song,” said Melissa Hyman, a recording artist and music teacher at Arts for Life NC, which created Heartbeat Sessions. “She’s a natural, really.”

Hyman, along with Buncombe County Schools Homebound Services Coordinator Jill Robertson, helped Brooklyn get into the studio to record her vocals. The song was a complete surprise for Brooklyn’s mother, Meagan Penley.

“They secretly did this whole song,” she said. “I thought it was just some kind of art project, but I got here, and they brought me into the recording studio to listen. I heard it and just bawled my eyes out. What an opportunity for Brooklyn. She’s so excited to sing her song in front of people, and she’s even working on a couple more.”

Brooklyn Reese, left, and Jill Robertson pose on the stairs at Echo Mountain Recording Studio.SCHOOL AND HOME CONNECTION

Brooklyn has shown a lot of resilience and strength through her ordeal, but being out of school for so long takes a toll, both academically and emotionally, Jill said.

That’s where BCS Homebound Services comes in. Teachers and social workers travel to the homes of students who, for a variety of reasons, can’t be in class for four or more weeks. The service maintains a continuity of educational services between school and home.

“We try to keep kids as connected as we can to school while they are out,” Jill said. “Their teachers and classmates at school keep them in mind and send home materials, but without the Homebound Services they wouldn’t possibly be able to keep up.”

Once a student qualifies for Homebound Services, their classroom teachers prepare materials for them and collaborate with homebound teachers, who serve as liaisons between the student and the school. With individualized plans and schedules, homebound teachers instruct students in their own homes and in medical facilities on timelines that work for the families.

For some students, especially those who are out for a few weeks or months, homebound teachers coordinate with the classroom teachers to deliver the student’s regular curriculum. For others, online learning is the answer. Some students even “telecommute” to school using classroom robots – iPads on wheels – that connect the student to her teacher and classmates in real time.

Brooklyn Reese holds a copy of Heartbeat Sessions, Volume One. Since they instruct all grade levels, Homebound teachers have to have a command of school materials from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“They have to be resourceful,” Jill said. “They can’t be a weak link. They have to do whatever it takes to help the student be successful.”

That means Homebound Services also supports the families of homebound students. Parents often miss work because of doctors’ appointments or because they need to be home with their child. Homebound teachers and social workers coordinate with the child’s school and local charitable organizations to make these tough situations a little easier to manage.

“So many homebound teachers go the extra mile,” Jill said. “They’re always thinking about those kids and what will make them happy. They really have a heart for kids who have to stay at home, and they want to bring them joy.”

“They’ve made it so much easier on me,” Meagan said. “Brooklyn is happy, and she’s really connected with her teachers. They make sure she does her schoolwork, and she learns something different from each one.”

As she got ready for her performance, Brooklyn thanked her teachers for giving her “an extra boost.”

“It’s been phenomenal,” she said. “We got a lot done. I feel good about it.”

For more information about Heartbeat Sessions, visit [new window]. Learn more about BCS Homebound Services.

Here's the video for Brooklyn's song:

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