Steamboat Springs High School student Mirko Erspamer reads an essay about his grandfather as part of an essay contest Friday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School student Mirko Erspamer reads an essay about his grandfather as part of an essay contest Friday.

Super grandmothers and life lessons

Students share stories of older role models in essay contest


— After they shared personal stories and memories of older people who have impacted their lives, four Steamboat Springs students received heartfelt gratitude from their elderly audience.

Those who had been eating lunch Friday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center filed up to the students, thanking them for their appreciation for older role models and for sharing their thoughts.

"I just like writing. I just enjoyed it because I got a chance to write, and we didn't get to do much writing in school this year," said rising Steamboat Springs Middle School seventh-grader Ben Wharton, who wrote about his outdoor-sports-loving grandfather.

"He taught me how to ski, and that's a big part of my life, so he's been important to my life," Wharton said.

The essay contest encouraged local middle and high school students to submit pieces of 500 to 2,000 words acknowledging a positive older role model. The contest was meant to celebrate Older Americans Month in May, said event organizer and Aging Well Routt County Senior Outreach Coordinator Teresa Wright.

"The goal simply was just to get kids to write about someone who was a positive older role model who made a difference in their lives, and also to celebrate intergenerational relationships," Wright said.

Most contest winners wrote about their grandparents, while some wrote about old family friends. Grant Verploeg, also a rising seventh-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School, based his essay, "Saintly in Seattle," on Gary Bylund, an elder role model who shares his interest in geography.

"He's a lot more of a family member than some that I already have," Verploeg said of Bylund. "I wanted to express how he made an impact in my life."

Mirko Erspamer, a rising sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School, wrote about his grandfather, introducing the man with a stately, "Everyone has a story. However, the story of this extraordinary man is one that writes itself." Erspamer outlined his adoration for his grandfather's ability to overcome a sickly childhood, work for NASA and show support for his grandson in all his pursuits.

"He's always there for me, and he helps me through the worst times. He takes care of me no matter where I am," Erspamer said.

Wright said she hopes to make the event annual, recruiting local writers and literary professionals to judge the essays.

"I think the main thing is just to emphasize how important that group of people is, and what a resource they are just on an individual basis and to the community at large," she said.

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail


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