Anoka-Ramsey Community College creative writing students, under the direction of instructor Bill Breen, met residents at GracePointe Crossing in Cambridge to share their stories the students turned into poems. The students gave a presentation on Oct. 10 of the poems they wrote based on the residents’ stories.
“Nothing is more heartwarming than witnessing intergenerational activities come to life by creating beautiful poetry. A huge shout out to Bill Breen, the instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, who gets it,” GracePointe Crossing community relations director Julie Tooker said. “The stories shared by our residents to these wonderful students all came to life in descriptive, wonderful poems. We live in a great community and we are more than blessed to have Anoka-Ramsey Community College as a neighbor and friend.”
GracePointe resident Coralie Ritchie, who didn’t work with any of the students from Anoka-Ramsey, shared a poem regarding the loss of her granddaughter.
“I wrote this poem in 1973,” Ritchie said. “I wrote it because my little granddaughter died when she got hit by a car while riding her bike. It was very difficult for me. Her birthday was just four days from mine and we celebrated together. She was only 6 years old.”
After Ritchie’s heartfelt poem, Breen stated her poem is an example of how poetry can be a powerful voice.
“I think Coralie’s poem is a great example how poetry can really be a powerful tool to capture our memories in the same way that photographs capture our memories,” Breen said. “That’s part of why we thought it would be a good idea to come over and work with all of you.”
According to Breen, the creative writing students came to GracePointe and interviewed residents. The students asked questions and took notes on their experiences and shaped them into poems.
One thing the students focus on in the creative writing class at Anoka-Ramsey Community College is working with the five senses.
“When we think back on particular moments in our lives of what we remember seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. We use those images to build poems,” Breen said. “They (the residents) talked about favorite summer memories, favorite fall memories, and childhood memories. We did a poem that started with ‘These Hands’ where they would remember all the different things our hands have done, or our eyes have seen.”
Anoka-Ramsey student Ireland Kelsey worked with GracePointe resident Clifford Eichholz.
“At first I was pretty nervous about it because I’ve never done anything like this before,” Kelsey said. “But when we started talking, I wanted to break the ice, so I talked to him about his childhood, his life, about fishing, about adventuring, and then we both enjoyed it. So it turned out to be an actual great experience.”
Jacqueline Olander, a senior at Cambridge-Isanti High School and in PSEO (Postsecondary Enrollment Options), worked with June Thompson.
“It was super fun, but I was a little nervous as well. After we started the first poem, and the second time we met, she just kept talking and it was so easy to just write down everything,” Olander said. “It was so cool learning about her past.”
GracePointe residents who shared their stories with the students were Penny Schreck, Lorraine Lidstrom, Eichholz, Jan Engstrom, Rachel Peterson, Shirley Ekleberry, Alice Starr, Barbara Woster, Thompson and Ted Loesher.
The students from the creative writing class from Anoka-Ramsey were Brittany Bailey, Raeann Goetz, Kelsey, Abigail Metzter, David Bayerl, Zachary Melby, Andrew Johnson, Olander, Bryson Shrider and Ricki Terry.
“This was a really cool experience,” Kelsey said. “Taking you out of the classroom and actually teaching lifelong lessons. I’ll remember this experience for a long time.”