Students partner with local nursing center for virtual trip

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 25, 2016

 St. Mary’s gave its residents, and the students, souvenirs from the virtual cruise to Italy.

St. Mary’s gave its residents, and the students, souvenirs from the virtual cruise to Italy.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — With a little help from their friends, residents at a local nursing home are taking a trip around the world this spring.

This is the second time residents at St. Mary’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in St. Clair Shores have taken a virtual cruise, and this time, they headed to Italy.

Being exposed to the culture, food and famous works of Vatican City, Florence and Naples, the residents were able to imagine they were away from St. Clair Shores for a while, all thanks to students in Holly Korchmar’s accelerated fifth-grade class at Elmwood Elementary in South Lake Schools.

The class has been visiting the center throughout this school year. Courtney Edwards, 11, said her class first came to St. Mary’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Christmastime and delivered homemade cards and sang carols to the residents. 

The second time, the center was collecting water to be sent to residents of Flint, and the students stopped by with a donation.

Edwards said she and her classmates were happy to come back to the center in May to wish the residents “Bon Voyage” on their virtual trip.

“Every time we come here, the people get really happy to see us and they’re happy we’re here,” Edwards said. 

Korchmar, who teaches the students in her accelerated classes for both fourth and fifth grades, said that she’s partnered with St. Mary’s in the past, but never as much as she did with this year’s fifth-grade class.

“Every time they come, they feel good about being here, being part of our community,” she said of her students. “I think it’s an opportunity for them to reach out and help others.”

Eleven-year-old fifth-grader Madeline Dimmer said she loves seeing the residents each time they visit.

“I love coming here because I know they have a great time,” she said. “I want to light up the day for these residents.”

She and her classmates were tour guides for the residents during the virtual cruise, learning about each location’s flags, food and culture. The students then made posters and performed skits to teach the St. Mary’s residents about the cities.

“The residents love our kids, we do an intergenerational program,” said Melinda Thompson, activities director at St. Mary’s. 

The halls were decked to look just like a ship, with porthole windows along the walls, an area with life preservers and lifeboats, and some netting strewn with fish. 

The residents and the students also received Italian souvenirs during the “Bon Voyage” event and were issued virtual passports.

“The residents and the staff live for it (the cruise week),” Thompson said, adding that they really appreciate the visit from the children as well. “They love to see their smiling faces. They remind them of their grandchildren.”

“We’re really excited about it, and the kids have been working hard on it,” Korchmar said.

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