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A visit from angels

Students spread holiday cheer by painting window at senior facility

video courtesy of Bobby Jo Kenyon

Godwin Heights — Armed with brushes and paint, five Godwin Heights High School students shared the magic of the season through their artistic talents by simply painting a window.

They transformed the glass in the Samaritas Senior Living chapel into a picturesque scene including a trio of serene angels, a twinkling Star of Bethlehem and a clear midnight sky.

“The multi-generational depiction of the life-sized angels brought me to tears as it speaks to the beauty of having youth and aged live and inspire each other lovingly with all the gifts that we are blessed to share,” said Samaritas Director of Events Anna Blanchard, adding that residents and staff enjoyed watching the students as they created the mural. 

Using the theme “Hark the Herald Angels,” the students researched design elements they wanted to include. 

“The students really took ownership of the project,” said volunteer Bobby Jo Kenyon.

The idea for the project started when Blanchard asked Kenyon if she knew anyone who would be interested in painting a window in the chapel. It took all of a second for Kenyon to respond.

Kenyon, Godwin Heights data support specialist who had served as an instructional coach at the high school, immediately reached out to high school art teacher Deanne Basse.

Basse was eager to get her students involved.

“This experience was one we were so excited to be able to participate in after a long period of not being able to create and celebrate together,” Basse said, adding that she is continually impressed with the compassion Godwin students show one another as well as to the community.

 “I was proud to see five of our senior artists collaborating and problem-solving on-site as they developed their vision on glass.”

Blanchard selected the angel theme for the window. She said none of the residents or staff would have made it through the last year without the aid of so many from the community.

One Last Gift

Students said they loved sharing their art while giving back to the community. One student said, “It just shows what we can do when we work together. We all have different strengths and weaknesses so it shows we are better together.”

As a gift to the students who participated, Kenyon produced the accompanying video which Principal Chad Conklin shared with the school.

But according to Basse, the real gift was the opportunity to work on the project. It was the students’ first experience working on glass.

“Most have taken a variety of art classes at the high school but with restrictions and accommodations made to the school day last year, none of them were able to participate in art class last year,” she said. 

Basse said it has been a “fantastic” first semester having the students back in the classroom and seeing how far they have come. She also noted that the students who participated in the Samaritas project all hope to pursue art careers.

Kenyon said she could see the window painting becoming an annual event. Students had fun and residents were delighted.

“Because of COVID, the residents had not had students in the facility and many of them commented on how nice it was to have them there,” Kenyon said. “It was just wonderful to see the joy the residents had watching the students as they painted.”

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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