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‘Grandpa’ makes an impact by helping English language learners

Godwin Heights — When third-grader Hector Cardona Perez first met Ed Meyer, Hector corrected him on how to say his name.

“I said ‘ekt-er’ and he said his name is ‘hek-tr,’” Meyer said, adding that in Spanish the ‘h’ is usually silent, but in the United States it is pronounced. Hector recognized that difference, which is an important first step for an English language learner, Meyer said.

For the past several years, the 92-year-old Meyer has been visiting North Godwin to help English language learners build their vocabulary by reading books and talking to the students. He started in the classroom of his niece, Holly Volstad, who taught kindergarten there before the 2019 reconfiguration of the schools that made North Godwin a third- through fifth-grade building.

“(Meyer) would often take my kids that needed some extra attention and give them some love and one-on-one attention,” Volstad said. “He would sit on the ground and get eye-level with the kids and have conversations with them, tell them stories, speak Spanish with them and read to them. 

“They looked up to him like a grandpa that some of them never had.”

Volstad said Meyer is that positive male role model who gives of his time to positively impact students.

Third-graders Hector Cardona Perez, left, and Iker Maldonado Garcia listen as volunteer Ed Meyer reads from a book

Meyer said he understands the struggles students face in learning a language. He previously worked in Argentina, helping to establish a church and, at the time, knew little Spanish. That’s where his language skills grew. 

Now retired, Meyer said he wanted to give back to his community by helping immigrants learn English and get acquainted with the area. 

“I have a need to be involved with other people, especially those of other nationalities,” said Meyer, who is also currently working with Afghanistan refugees through another program.

Meyer said he has enjoyed his time working with students, watching them grow and seeing them build a better understanding of the English language, especially in such things like the difference between the Spanish and English pronunciations of “Hector.” 

Read more from Godwin Heights: 
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Wolverine Winterfest a hit with hundreds

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools 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. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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