Reading Poetry for the Residents of Thomas Upham


Credit: The Garden Continuum and Adam Richins

COVID restrictions have led club leader and Spirit of Service Award Winner Grace Gulbankian ’21 to find new adaptions to Montrose’s Thomas Upham House routine.

The pandemic, of course, has been a difficult time for everyone. But it has proved to be even more difficult for our senior residents. Because the chances of passing away from Covid-19 are significantly higher for people over the age of 65, as reported by the CDC, many seniors had to stay isolated from family and friends. During the pandemic, Montrose’s usual visits to the Thomas Upham residents were halted to keep everyone safe. But who’s to say that we still can’t give some love to our friendly residents at Thomas Upham? Recently, Grace Gulbankian ‘21 presented an awesome idea to spread the joys of spring to the residents of Thomas Upham.

Grace has been involved with the activities for Thomas Upham since she was a sophomore and has led the Thomas Upham club for the past two years. During our interview, she recalled one of her favorite memories with Thomas Upham: “balloon volleyball.” Essentially, it is a keep-it-up game with a balloon, where everyone would pass the balloon around the room without letting it hit the ground. She said: “I enjoyed this because it was an activity where everyone could participate even if they didn’t feel comfortable chatting, and it was also nice to see the residents smile!”

It felt like a loss when Montrosians couldn’t visit Thomas Upham as usual, but Grace felt there had to be a way that Montrose could continue to brighten up the residents’ days. Head of School Dr. Bohlin encouraged Grace to keep the tradition going by having our Montrosians recite poetry.

Grace said: “I loved the idea because I feel that these poems were the closest we could get to actually seeing the residents in person. The poems allowed the residents to see our faces, hear our voices, and connect Montrose to certain faces during a time when isolation has made many people feel disconnected from others.”

By encouraging girls to send recordings of their poetry, Grace was able to create a compilation to share with the residents. The most recent compilation of videos was inspired by the theme of spring.

Grace said: “The activities that our club has done in past years (pre-Covid) were both fun and meaningful as we engaged with the residents in a way that benefitted both them and us. This year, our meetings felt very powerful because it was really nice to see that Montrosians were still dedicated to the residents at Thomas Upham despite these difficult times.”

Many of the residents of Thomas Upham truly treasure this recital of original and published pieces recited by the girls at Montrose. I’ll encourage everyone, whether or not you’ve visited Thomas Upham, to send a video of yourself reciting a piece of poetry to Grace at Maybe you don’t have a favorite piece of poetry — that’s all right! You get to find something new that will brighten up your day as much as it will the day of Thomas Upham residents. What a wonderful thing it is to use poetry to lend a smile to our seniors! (I also do not deny the fact that I may be a little bit biased towards this creative writing method.) It is another, more crucial fact that using poetry is an incredible way to bring the residents of Thomas Upham and Montrosians together to remember gratitude for life, the beauty of spring, and the preciousness of hope.


Jenn Uche ‘22, Creative Writing Editor