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Visit a Senior, Meet a Pilot or a Teacher, or an Artist

Student Visits Create Unexpected Bonds


High school students have learned many interesting tidbits about the residents they are getting to know at American House Senior Living Community in Kentwood.

Each resident has a story, they’ve learned: Betty Reynolds was the first teacher at Battle Creek Christian School; Lois Laffey was a pilot. Margie Halstead is an artist who has 10 children, 35 grandchildren and 53 great-grandchildren. Margaret Gazella’s husband had to leave on their wedding day to fight in World War II.

Kelloggsville freshman Miles Thomas-Mohammad sets up crafts for senior citizens

“I love talking to the residents,” said Kelloggsville freshman Miles Thomas-Mohammad, while crafting glittery cardboard flowers with several ladies, and learning even more details about their lives. “They are so nice.”

They’ve learned other things as well while joining residents for crafts, games and snacks. Kelloggsvile senior Thu Nguyen, who is from Vietnam, said special moments happen over Bingo and just getting to know each other. “I want to make them feel happy so they don’t feel lonely,” she said.

And residents like it too. “It makes you feel young again,” said Elaine Wigger.

American House resident Vergie Schuitema shows off her flower craft
American House resident Vergie Schuitema shows off her flower craft

Added Ginger Kay, “It’s nice to have young people here, because they are so positive.”

A group of about eight Kelloggsville students, many who are English-language learners, visit the assisted-living and memory-care facilities monthly to spend time with seniors. Coordinated by EL teacher Susan Faulk, the volunteering opportunity is a way for students to give back and step out of their comfort zones and get to know others.

Kelloggsville High School senior Thu Nguyen plays bingo with a resident

“The students gain patience and confidence as they work with the seniors,” Faulk said. “Many students are really shy and feel awkward around the seniors at first. I see their confidence grow as they realize that they are able to help someone else. I also see them having to learn patience, as a game of Skip-Bo and Rummikub can take a long time with a senior who has to think for a long time before taking action.”

For the past two years, Faulk has also coordinated a volunteer group at Women At Risk International Volunteer Center, a Grandville-based nonprofit organization that unites and educates women and children in areas of human trafficking and sexual slavery.

Kelloggsville High School senior Dim Ciin eyes her Bingo board
Kelloggsville High School senior Dim Ciin eyes her Bingo board

American House staff said the visits are very meaningful to residents.

“It’s always exciting to see people cross age barriers relationally,” said Susan Faulk’s husband, Steven Faulk, American House chaplain.

Activities assistant Betty Torres said the residents “love relating to the younger crowd. They have a lot of good stories to tell, our residents. They get so exited about a group coming in. It fulfills their whole being.”

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SNN Article About Kelloggville Students Volunteering at Women At Risk

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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