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Teens visit Springsteen exhibit to learn about their hometown

Educators in Freehold Borough are citing “The Boss” when it comes to teaching young residents about their hometown.

On Jan. 27, eighth grade pupils from the Freehold Intermediate School viewed the “Springsteen: His Hometown” exhibit during a field trip to the Monmouth County Historical Association museum on Court Street in the borough.

The exhibit chronicles the life, 50-year career and ancestry of Bruce Springsteen, a Freehold Borough native who rose to international fame as the leader of the E Street Band. Springsteen, 70, now resides in Colts Neck.

The students’ short field trip from the intermediate school on Park Avenue to the museum on Court Street was sponsored by the Freehold Borough Educational Foundation, a private nonprofit organization that raises money to support extracurricular activities in the Freehold Borough K-8 School District.

All 160 eighth-graders who attend the intermediate school were scheduled to visit the museum over the course of three visits. On Jan. 27, about 70 pupils viewed “Springsteen: His Hometown.”

Jean Holtz, who chairs the foundation’s Board of Trustees, said many of the pupils who came to see the exhibit are first generation residents of Freehold Borough.

“For those of us who are a bit older, Springsteen is one of our idols,” Holtz said. “But so many kids in our school district had no idea there was even a museum in the borough … So (the museum visit) is not just about Springsteen necessarily, this exhibit is about (Springsteen’s) hometown.

“Bruce’s hometown is also the students’ hometown. (Many of the students) do not know the history here because their parents are from somewhere else,” Holtz said.

Francisco Alberro, who teaches eighth grade social studies at the Freehold Intermediate School, said allowing pupils to view items of historical significance in Springsteen’s life offered a more tangible educational experience than just “going on iTunes and listening to ‘Born to Run.’

“I wanted to prep the kids on Bruce Springsteen … I told them (Springsteen) is a couple of generations ahead of us, but regardless of the type of music (he creates) or what era he is from, (it is important) to respect his story, work ethic, drive and ambition,” Alberro said.

Ana Hernandez Lujan, 13, said her visit to the Monmouth County Historical Association museum enlightened her about the history of her hometown.

“I knew there were a lot of problems in Freehold during the Great Depression, but I never knew there was a rug mill here and I didn’t know there were two big fires in the middle of town. Just walking down the street, you wouldn’t know that happened,” Ana said.

Asked what she hoped to take away from her experience, Ana said she admires that Springsteen came from a life and a place that posed challenges at times “and went up.”

Ana said she is inspired by Springsteen’s motivation and story. The young woman said she aspires to become a veterinarian so that she may be able to help financially support her immediate and extended family members who live in Mexico.

“I want to help (my family) with money,” Ana said. “Since I am my parents’ only child, they also have been working for a really long time and they came to (America) for new opportunities.

“I want to help them with those opportunities in the future. Like Bruce Springsteen, he came from the bottom and went to the top. Maybe I can help my family come from the bottom to the top,” Ana said.

Springsteen has a family history in Freehold Borough that dates back almost 250 years.

In addition to seeing guitars Springsteen has used across a career that began in the mid-1960s and posters advertising early appearances, visitors to “Springsteen: His Hometown” will learn about his lineage, which includes ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Visitors will also learn about Freehold Borough, a working class town that helped to shape the singer-songwriter and the music he has produced for a half-century.

The exhibit provides a comprehensive look at how Monmouth County has been thematically woven into Springsteen’s music and art. Residents of Freehold Borough may view the exhibit for free during the museum’s regular hours.

Proceeds from the exhibit will benefit the Monmouth County Historical Association, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing the story of Monmouth County, according to a press release. Ticket information for “Springsteen: His Hometown” is available at www.SpringsteenHisHometown.com

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