Word to the Mic gives kids, seniors chance to learn

GWINN – Tia Nordeen stepped up to the mic first.

With confidence, she read some of her own writing, about getting ready for hunting, about rainy days and games with her younger siblings and about a sad dragon looking to become brightly colored.

But it was an observational piece Tia, who recently completed fourth grade, shared that drew laughter. After visiting the Marquette Regional History Center with the other students in the “Writing in Unexpected Places” summer camp, Tia wrote about what she saw and what she learned.

“They used horse poop to make hockey pucks,” she read.

The small crowd of senior citizens who formed the event’s audience roared with laughter.

Tia was the first of 12 students in Debbie Goldsworthy’s summer camp class to share her work with assembled elders at the Forsyth Township Senior Center last week in an event dubbed Word to the Mic.

Students in the camp – which took place the first week of summer vacation – were invited by Julie Shaw, the senior center’s director, to share their works and Goldsworthy gladly accepted the invitation, which included a baked spaghetti lunch.

The assembly of seniors was smaller than anticipated because the event happened to end up being scheduled at the same time as funeral services for Ruth Spade, a beloved teacher and administrator in the Gwinn school district.

“I had thought about postponing,” Goldsworthy said. “But Ruth had been my principal and I knew Ruth would have wanted us to be here today. So thank you to those of you who came.”

The summer camp, funded by donation, was for a group of a dozen students who just completed fourth or fifth grade, chosen from a larger contingent who applied.

“There was a lot of interest in the camp,” said Goldsworthy, a teacher in the district who volunteered to lead the summer session. “I was surprised as it was the first week of summer vacation. But we wanted to keep the group small. We wanted the kids to get to know each other.”

The students did as the camp’s name applied: They wrote about what they saw in unexpected places like the town’s cemetery, the Forsyth Township Historical Society’s museum and along the banks of the Escanaba River.

They also ventured to Marquette to visit the history center and the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum.

“We’ve done this kind of camp before but this is the first time we’ve read for the seniors,” Goldsworthy said.

For Tia, reading what she wrote was fun.

“I like writing,” she said afterward. “I can express what I have inside me and tell about what I did.”

Shaw said the event had special resonance for seniors.

“I think hearing what the kids wrote reminded us all of our own school days,” she said. “It was a reminder of the magic of being able to write and put yourself in a different world. It was just wonderful.”

Audience member John A. Nesberg is a former teacher who was impressed by what he heard.

“It was very good,” he said. “The kids did a great job. It’s a good thing they had the chance to do this.”

Senior Ruth Fagerberg agreed.

“I thought it was really cute,” she said. “What interesting things they told us.”

Other students reading at the open mic event were Kaden Watt, McKayla Quigley, David Duvall, Seth Quayle, Abbie Van Duzer, Halle Beauchamp, Avah Hammond, Eli Luokkala, Caleb Anderson, Grace Andrews and Jennifer Jerome.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.