Byron Center HS seniors honor WWII vets with unique event

Kent County
Byron Center High School WWII event 122017_450388

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Byron Center High School students have turned an English project into an event honoring World War II veterans.

Trevor Muir, an English teacher at Byron Center High School, arraigned for his 12th-grade class to interview senior citizens at a nearby retirement home. He never imagined his students would take the project to such great heights.

It was the students who decided to take those interviews and show the documentary at the event, which will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the high school’s Van Singel Fine Arts Center.

Muir’s inspiration for the project was personal, derived from the regret he feels from not recording his grandfather’s stories about his time serving in World War II.

“I heard them all growing up, but I never did anything with them. Then he died and they’re gone. We have no record other than just our memories of it, and that really hit me deep,” Muir explained.

The teens are too young to have grandparents who fought in WWII, and it was clearly an eye-opening experience for them.

“The veteran that I interviewed told us how he had friends here. Then he went and joined the army. He had friends in the army and some of them died. Then he came back and he learned that a lot of his friends from high school had also died. That really stuck out to me,” Kimberly Pipe said.

The event will also feature artwork that the students created. Grace Chmielewski prefers art over English and was excited to put her skills to use for this project.

“We took a photo and put it into photo shop, used a feathered brush to show part of it black and white and then added the phrase ‘humble soldier’ because [this veteran] is a Purple Heart recipient,” she said.

Marketing was another important part of the project, which Tyler Abuelhawa helped spearhead. He and the rest of the team made a video to encourage students to come to the event. One of his favorite parts of the project was how it all started with the interviews.

“At first it was kind of hard for them to come out and express all of the things that they experienced. Then as soon as we started asking them more questions, they just started to loosen up and were just more open to everything. It was really cool”, he explained.

For Muir, seeing his students do so much extra work to make their vision a reality has been more than fulfilling.

“It gets them so engaged in the work because now all of a sudden it’s not just about the grade book, it’s about serving these veterans. It’s about putting on this event. It’s about creating really amazing dynamic work,” Muir said.

It’s also priceless for the men and women who shared their stories with members of the youngest generation who are working to honor the greatest generation.

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