Partnering with organizations in the community allowed Grand Haven Area Public Schools (GHAPS) students to turn a “day off” into a “day on” by participating in service and volunteer opportunities to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through the”Day On Challenge”.
“A committee consisting of teachers, community members and administrators put together age-appropriate learning and service opportunities where students could learn, serve and be inspired by Dr. King,” says Mary Jane Evink, director of instructional services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.
Volunteer locations included school and public libraries, Ottawa County Parks, Children’s Advocacy Center and Grand Haven Township Fire and Rescue Department, to name a few. All in all, 15 locations opened their doors to 150 GHAPS students in grades 5 through 12 who decided to spend their day off school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering.
GHAPS student Evan says he participated in the Day On Challenge to give back to the community and chose the Tri-Cities Family YMCA because they have been a part of Grand Haven for so long.
“Volunteering honors Martin Luther King Jr because he said anybody can be great because anybody can serve,” Evan says. “It shows our part by serving the community.”
Students at the Tri-Cities Family YMCA helped the organization by working in child care, cleaning windows and exercise equipment, and filing paperwork.
“A lot of these volunteer students attended preschool or child care at the Y,“ says Kelly Ruffing, marketing and fund development manager for the Tri-Cities YMCA. “We love working seamlessly with the schools to foster healthy youth development.”
GHAPS student and Tri-Cities YMCA volunteer Gabby, says, “After you volunteer it’s so rewarding. It brings you a lot of happiness and joy knowing you served your community.”
And, happiness and joy flowed both directions.
At Christian Haven Home, students played games with senior residents, colored and bowled.
Christian Haven Home Life Enrichment Coordinator Roxanne Serritos says the residents get a lot out of student visits including a chance to interact with and get to know the younger generation.
“One of my residents commented on how much fun the students had,” Roxanne says. “When I mentioned she had fun too she exclaimed, ‘I did!’”
At the Harbor Humane Society, 20 students chose to roll-up their sleeves and help clean the facility and bathe animals.
The hard work performed by student volunteers at Harbor Humane Society led Program Manager Ashton VanKoevering to remark she doesn’t think their training center had ever looked better. “They jumped right in to clean and were absolutely wonderful,” Ashley says.
Mary Jane says many organizations told her how willing students were to do any job and get their hands dirty. “That is a sign of maturity, and we want to illuminate that and give students a lot of credit for their hard work,” she adds.
“The ranch has opened up such creativity for our teachers. We can start to think of different ideas for putting our curriculum into practice. Teachers kind of get to be kids again!” —Danielle Snoeyink, Rose Park Elementary School Teacher
“Volunteering honors Martin Luther King Jr. because he said anybody can be great because anybody can serve. It show our part by serving the community.” —Evan, GHAPS student