Teens turn Grandvue senior visits into works of literary art

grandvue seniors headshot
The East Jordan Middle School Shoe Club teaches students valuable life lessons while doing good in the community.
East Jordan Middle School teacher Matt Hamilton observes while Sharity Whitaker (center) interviews Grandvue resident Myrtle Morgridge as part of the East Jordan Middle School Shoe Club’s elder project. Photo by Chris Faulknor/Boyne City Gazette
East Jordan Middle School teacher Matt Hamilton observes while Sharity Whitaker (center) interviews Grandvue resident Myrtle Morgridge as part of the East Jordan Middle School Shoe Club’s elder project. Photo by Chris Faulknor/Boyne City Gazette



The last place you’d expect young teens to spend any time in is a nursing home.

But, for members of the East Jordan Middle School’s Shoe Club, the chance to interview senior citizens was the opportunity of several lifetimes.


“I guess it was my idea, to combine the kids from the East Jordan Middle School that were in the Shoe Club with residents of grandvue,” said Arch Dettman, a volunteer at Grandvue.

Dettman credited Terry Wooten, who has overseen similar elders projects before, with hosting the program which gives students the chance to interview senior citizens and then turn those interviews into poems about their experience.

The six-day program instructs students on how to conduct the interviews. They are given a suggested list of questions to ask and then they visit with the people in question.

This year’s project, which had nearly 20 participating students, took place around mid-December.

“It’s a leadership (program) for the kids to work hard, dream big and give back to the communities and the school,” said Matt Hamilton, East Jordan Middle School teacher and leader of the Shoe Club. “We do a lot of school projects, community projects and (student) projects for themselves as well.”

Hamilton said the idea of the Shoe Club is so the kids can learn what it’s like to walk in other people’s shoes.

“When they join the shoe club, they give me one of their shoes that I hang on the wall in my room,” he said. “And, over the years, I’ve started collecting people’s shoes as role models for the kids.”

Hamilton said the shoe club visits Grandvue often to play bingo with the seniors and to do volunteer work.

“(The kids) get interaction with an older person and some history from the people who lived through it,” said Dettman. “They (seniors) get a chance to interact with young people and have them listen to them and develop an acquaintance or friendship.”

Hamilton said he hopes the seniors will feel good about project, and that the students will understand they are giving back to the community in a meaningful way.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” said Hamilton. “We love playing bingo with the residents but this is much deeper and much more valuable to us.”

He added, “Getting to know the residents better on a deeper, more meaningful level has been a great experience for me as a teacher. And, I know the kids have thoroughly enjoyed talking to them and listening to them too.”

The Shoe Club’s motto is to valuing themselves and others.

A selection of the student poems shared by Arch Dettman is as follows:

Jim’s Interception
Elder: Jim W.
Students: Andrea L.,
Ellie S., Steven S.
It was 1952 in East Jordan, MI
The pass was thrown
to the other guy.
I happened to be there.
I jumped in between
two Charlevoix players
both taller than me
right at the goal line.
The game was done.
I scored the winning touchdown.
First time in years
my team had beaten Charlevoix.
Everyone was cheering.

Free Verse Poem
Elder: Myrtle M.
Student: Sharity W.
I was riding a horse
It had been a good hour
A sunny, warm, muggy, afternoon
I was only 5 years old
I couldn’t find my original saddle
so, I climbed onto the horse
with just a blanket beneath
I felt the blanket slip beneath me
I had fallen off the horse
I wasn’t very far away from my house
my brother ran fast into the house
out came my parents
My dad picked me up
ran me into the house
he sat me in a chair
a couple minutes later
I was at the doctors where they gave me a sling
When I got home from the doctors
There I was with a sling over my shoulder
I had to keep it on for about a week
Moving was painful and uncomfortable
I slept in a rocking chair
Until I got my sling officially
From then until now
I have always had a crooked arm

The Spanking
Elder: Flo D.
Students: Emily Z., Madelyn R., Jennahka M.
I have to tell you
believe you me
we were jumping on the bed.
Ohh we were having fun.
You want to try it some time.
Papa told us to quiet down.
He ran upstairs yelling the whole way,
grabbed me
and spanked my butt.
I haven’t jumped on the bed since.
I will never forget it
as if it were yesterday.
We had no trampolines.
It was just as fun.

Elder: Phyllis L. (91)
Student: Kara F.
My mother was very sick
Constantly in the hospital
I’ say about one year
Her baby
Was left home
With me while I was only 12
The neighbor
Oh she helped me
For Which I was grateful
I was always thee boss
The oldest of 4
My mom was sick
While my dad worked
My sisters fought
All the time
I dropped out of school
My junior year
While I worked
At a senior center
Which I took classes
After I woked
I studied all night
I worked all day
I graduated
I got my GED
I had finished

Elder: Phyllis L.
Student: Elizabeth K.
When I was young,
12 or 13,
my mother was very sick.
I was the oldest of 4,
and had to watch my mother’s baby.
My younger sisters would fight a lot.
My mother cried,
and she cried because my Dad was always
at the bar.
She always wanted to divorce,
but she had 4 girls.
So it was me and them,
and my Mother was in the hospital.
My Dad was working,
but he was happy.
When my Mother got better,
She worked in the factory.
I moved all the time.
The depression didn’t bother my sisters,
but it bothered my parents a lot.
I realized it later.
Once all the kids left,
it was just the 3 of us,
until my Dad died,
then my Mom.
Now I regret nothing,
and I am happy,
I am outliving them.

Elder: Helen A.
Students: Molly K., Madilyn C.
Love all your friends.
Remember we’re all different.
You can’t expect them to agree
with everything you say,
but they are still your friends.
You do not have to have money
and things
to enjoy life,
you really don’t
Friendship and family
is what really matters.
As long as you can get along
you will always be friends.
To me,
there is absolutely nothing
more important.

I’m Bohemian
Elder: Helen A.
Students: Molly K., Madilyn C.
I am Bohemian born
and raised.
Both parents of mine
are Bohemian
Their parents came from Bohemia.
I had a tough time
with my history teacher.
I mentioned Bohemia
to Mr. Brotherston.
He told me
there was no such place.
We argued through
half of the school year.
“There is such a place,”
I said in an angered tone.
One day
I was called into his office.
“What did I do?” I thought.
He apologized to me saying,
“There is a Bohemia after all.”
I wouldn’t lie to my teacher
I told him.