By Stacie Rose
Daily News correspondent
Picturing a large Army truck rumbling down the highway from Pontiac to ports on the eastern seaboard doesn’t typically evoke the image of a petite woman as its driver, but that was the case with Joan Eddy. Eddy is a resident of Green Acres Retirement Living in Greenville where she is part of a pilot program in conjunction with Greenville High School, an opportunity for students like Sarah Ritz to enjoy and learn more of people from other generations.
The Green Acres Mentors Matter Program was the brainchild of Activities Director Karen Dillon and Greenville High School Assistant Principal Todd Oatley.
“The girls have been coming for approximately eight weeks and are all (in) ninth grade,” Dillon said. “They meet together once a week for 20 to 40 minutes; the girls talk about what is going on in their lives and the mentors discuss what was going on in their lives.”
A bridge has been spanned between the generations of the students and residents involved in the Mentors Matter Program. The students, residents and Dillon have seen the positive impact this undertaking has had on all those involved.
“I have been so excited, the residents love it and the girls can’t wait to be involved again next year,” Dillon said. “It benefits everyone. We are really hoping to have more students involved in the fall. We have more residents and some male residents who would also like to be included.”
The residents and students involved in the program enjoy hearing one another’s perspective of how events and things, such as school, have both changed through the years. Despite the changes, the participants also find commonality in issues the students are currently experiencing and those the mentors experienced in their lives, as well.
Conversations that make a friendship
Joan Eddy came to Green Acres in 2010, but she has lived a full life in her 89 years leading up to the present. She not only got behind the wheel of large Army trucks, but she criss-crossed the country managing hotels, motels and restaurants with her former husband.
“We lived in Tulsa, Okla., and then he (her boss) felt bad when we had to move to the Panhandle of Texas because the weather was bad,” Eddy said.
Eddy chuckles when remembering the conversation because, little did her boss know, she used to live in the Midwest and East Coast and thought the weather in Texas to be balmy in comparison.
Eddy enjoys serving as a mentor and is evidenced in the affection heard in her voice when she speaks of her mentee, Sarah Ritz. Ritz has been able to share parts of her life with Eddy and recently told her that her grades have improved. Both Eddy and Ritz have experienced similar circumstances in their lives and it has helped them both being able to share that with one another.
“She’s evidently comfortable talking with me because she always asks if she can come back,” Eddy said. Ritz always makes certain to hug Eddy before leaving each Thursday, as well. Eddy added that she hopes to be paired with Ritz again in the fall when the program resumes with the next school year.
Greenville High School student Jade Kikos hopes to be a pediatrician when she’s older and it is a dream she has shared with her mentor, Mary Joynt. Kikos has a plan in place to achieve her dreams by entering either the Army or the Air Force, bettering her odds of fulfilling her aspirations. It’s just one of the many subjects she discusses on Thursdays with Joynt.
“At the very beginning, we both said we love to talk,“ Kikos said. “She even told me what she likes about this, (which) is having the company and the conversations we have about getting to know each other.”
Kikos and Joynt simply enjoy the art of conversation and learning how things have changed over the years, including the curriculum differences the two have noted in their time together. Kikos was surprised to learn that some of the courses she takes as a freshman would not have been offered until she was a senior in high school during Joynt’s high school years.
Joynt found her to way Greenville by way of St. Louis to Detroit and later Alma until settling locally when her husband purchased an automotive repair business called Jack’s Automotive. Joynt looks forward to the discussion she shares with Kikos and made it clear that they both enjoy talking about everything from the economy to schoolwork and current events.
“I like it (the program) very much and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s nice to do this — something that wasn’t available when I was young,” Joynt said. “When you’re at Green Acres, it’s nice to have extra activities; It’s good for us to be involved in the community.”
Program successful ‘all the way around’
Eddy, Joynt and Kikos all plan to be involved in the Mentors Matter Program again in the fall when the next school year begins.
The close proximity of Green Acres to the high school has also added to the program’s success, according to Dillon.
“The girls wanted to know if they could come over more often,” Dillon said. “They connected with Mr. Oatley and they come over every Thursday at a different time so they don’t miss the same class or period.”
The success of the program has also created the launch of another initiative taking place during the summer months.
“It has been really successful all the way around,“ Dillon said, “Something that has developed out of this is we have started a junior summer volunteer program so that some of these students involved in the mentor program can volunteer during the summer.
Dillion said 10 students have been selected for the summer program, so far.
“We are excited for the future has for this program. It is open to all high school students and it just happened that it was four ninth graders and it’s kind of neat because the mentors will get to see their students all the way through high school,” Dillon said.
Dillon said that the success of the program is also due to the great job Todd Oatley has done in coordinating the students and allowing them to adjust their schedules in order to participate.
Green Acres is hosting a meet and greet for the students, their parents and the resident mentor sat 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 29. It will mark the first time that all who are involved will be together and have the opportunity to get to know one another.