Lowell Grads Pay it Forward On Service Learning Day

Some washed windows. Others weeded a playground. Still others played cards with senior citizens.

All of the 200-plus seniors from Lowell High School gave something back to the community on a day of service to mark their graduation. They fanned out to 16 sites around Lowell, pitching in on everything from landscaping and gardening to working at a food bank and setting up flags at a cemetery. 

It was the students’ way of thanking a community that has supported them throughout their education.

“Our seniors did a tremendous amount of good this morning for many schools, parks, residents and businesses,” Principal Amy Pallo said of the May 21 event. “On top of accomplishing a lot, they had a ton of fun!”

The third annual event stemmed from a student’s suggestion that seniors should end their school experience with a service learning project. It was a natural outgrowth of the service projects all Lowell students perform as freshmen.

The freshman program, now in its ninth year, includes Tony Juarez (standing) keeps an eye on the card game at the Fountain View of Lowell assisted living centerone day at an area camp and a second day of service. Students have built a garage, picnic tables and a wheelchair-accessible garden. In 2007 the effort was recognized as an outstanding innovative program from Learn and Serve Michigan, a government-sponsored service-learning initiative.

“The students become friends with people they may not have met through other experiences, and they have a great time helping out the community,” Pallo said.

Seniors bonding with seniors

Assistant Principal Deanne Crowley organized the senior service day along with lead teachers Chaye Klomparens and Nick Blough. Other teachers volunteered to take students to community sites.

Heather DeJonge took 14 students to the Fountain View assisted living center for senior citizens. While some students painted benches in the garden, others played cards and talked with the residents. The students heard and shared memories such as their first dates, DeJonge said.

“The interaction that took place between the senior students ready to venture out on a new path and the residents was incredibly meaningful,” DeJonge added. “The residents were so thankful to have the high school students spend time with them.”

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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