Shared interests have an inspiring capability to bring different communities together. On a warm April day when students from Delta Middle School met with residents at The Village at Penn State, the power of poetry revealed similarities across generations that formed lasting connections and meaningful bonds.

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Upon their first trip to The Village back in March, students in grades five through eight from the middle school poetry class, and their teacher, David Rockower, visited residents to read and recite “Where I’m From” poems, which gave them background on the students’ youth.  “These poems tell our personal histories and identities. They share who we are and what makes us unique,” says David explaining the meaning behind their work.

“I don’t get to talk with many people outside of my family who are Don’s age,” Riley says.

Don and Riley enjoy their time together at The Village

Making the occasion a true poetic exchange, the students in return asked residents questions about their childhood and modeled new versions of the poems based on the residents’ experiences. Eighth-grader, Riley Blake, met Village resident, Don Colby, and truly enjoyed the intergenerational dialogue.

It was really fun to hear his story. When he was a kid, everything was so different from the way it is now. He had to walk miles to school every day with all of his heavy books. I can’t imagine doing that!

Riley Blake, eighth-grade student from Delta Middle School

The differences between Riley and Don’s youth are clear, but their similarities allowed them to form a unique connection.

“We both love gospel music, and are very close to our families,” Riley says, appreciating their shared interests. In addition to opening Riley’s mind to commonalities with generations outside of her own, she noticed the joy this experience gave to Don.

I could tell our visit brought him so much happiness.

Don used to be a pastor, and has always seen younger generations in a positive light. As he reflected on the experience, Riley’s motivation truly inspired him. “I enjoyed her focus. She was mature and I could tell she was taking the right steps towards the rest of her life,” Don says admiring Riley’s maturity. “The students made me feel better about the future,” he adds with a strong sense of hope in his voice.  

Exchanging more than just poetry, many of the students asked residents for their email addresses to keep the intergenerational conversations going. As for Riley and Don, they both hope to keep in touch as they will always cherish the special connection they made that warm April day at The Village.

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