For the 27 middle school students, and their attentive staff supervisors, the Grannie Wannabes — Nikiski Middle-High School’s knitting club — is about more than the knitting.
Thursday afternoon, the group celebrated the first half of the school year’s work together, with the greasy reward of pizza, but only after presenting their big project to the staff from Nikiski Senior Center. The girls had been stitching and sewing together 47 fleece blankets for the community’s seniors.
“Before I introduce the representatives for the Grannie Wannabes, I want you to know about another of these girls’ accomplishments,” said founding organizer Glynes Gerrior said at the start of the gathering. “They not only have made all of these blankets, they have been keeping their grades up…”
Gerrior started the club last year after noticing new students who were meeting some challenges socializing with their peers. What started out as a small cluster of six has ballooned into quite the company.
“I panicked when it rose to 13-14 last year,” Gerrior said. And then again rose to 27.
Gerrior manages to supply all materials to the girls for free through a combination of donations and using part of an annual allocation from the Nikiski Community Council.
Sixth grader Libby Brinner addressed the audience after Gerrior to talk about how the Wannabees has changed her school experience.
“Hi, My name is Libby. I’d like to thank you for coming to the presentation of the blankets made by the Grannie Wannabes,” Brinner began. “I’ve never been in a club either. I used to be someone who felt like I could not get along with the other kids. Now, because of the club, I feel like other people are reaching out to me. The Grannie Wannabes helps me meet new people that are kind and loving to me.”
Brinner has been crocheting since five, which she said, she enjoys as a hobby, but joining the club also had effects outside of the building.
Her mother, Shasta Brinner, said she sees a transformation in her daughter partially because of the sense of accomplishment the weekly meetings have given her.
“Being involved makes her more grounded and more grown up,” Shasta Brinner said. “She can sit down and finish it instead of being flighty.”
Seventh grader Emma Lakin said she has noticed similar changes in herself after joining the club. She has become more confident speaking in front of a crowd, and has been able to take part in activities that give back to the community and meet new friends.
Kelly McCaughey, the schools instructional aid and co-organizer of the club, said she sees innumerable benefits for the girls involved, and many that are already beginning to manifest.
“It is way more than the knitting — way more than that,” McCaughey said.
It teaches respect, and confidence and she already sees the changes present in the hallways and classrooms, she said.
Middle school can be brutal, which is partially why she took the job at the school, to act as an advocate for respect after having been bullied herself at that age.
“They are all going through the same stuff,” McCaughey said.
Gerrior said she has seen the students begin to stick up for each other in tough situations. They also have a rule that anything talked about in the weekly meetings stays within the group, she said.
Nikiski Senior Center Director Jill Smith said the girls decided to pay it forward on their own in an “old fashioned, grassroots,” expression in “respect and kindness.”
“They just said we have blankets,” Smith said.