- Sponsorship -

Learning Through Serving

Students Help Haitian School, Community Organizations

Empathy and compassion were the lessons of the day recently at two district schools: Haiti Day at Breton Downs Elementary and the 11th annual Day of Caring, where middle schoolers fanned out across the community for service-learning projects ranging from outdoor trail cleanups and library book shelving, to playing with other children and walking shelter dogs.

Kindergartner Lucy Straveler, front, and first-grader Henry Hoekstra get drinks of water as their Haitian peers do

Haiti Day

Nathalie Lanne has known how to write in French for as long as she has known how to write.

So having been born in Paris and moved to the U.S. when she was 7, it was natural for the Breton Downs fifth-grader to write a letter to the principal of a school in Haiti in the language widely spoken in that country.

“I wrote to him that my class and I love your kids, that they are really nice and so brave, and that it’s awesome that they get to go to school,” Nathalie said.

Her letter was put into the hands of that principal — Joseph Geordanie “Jordan” Fleurant — when he visited Breton Downs during the school’s fifth annual Haiti Day.

It was the culminating activity of the fifth year spent connecting with and supporting the Institution La Puissance de L’Education, in Port-au-Prince, through the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Power of Education Foundation.

Seventh-graders Ben Turner, left, and Samuel Spiegel sort beads at the Cook Library Center

Students started the day with a video chat with their Haitian peers, and Breton Downs Principal Caroline Breault-Cannon presented Fleurant with a check for $2,800 raised by school families and the PTO.

Students also spent the day much like a typical one at the school in Haiti. They wore uniforms, drank water from coolers instead of water fountains, navigated hallways with minimal electricity to simulate rolling outages, played Haitian games and ate traditional beans-and-rice school lunches.

“We have no way to say thank you for all you have done,” Fleurant told Breton Downs students.

One of several projects the Breton Downs students have collaborated on with their Haitian partner school

Day of Caring

As volunteer work goes, building an indoor fort at the Cook Library Center in Southwest Grand Rapids was a pretty good deal for a quartet of Middle School students.

“Rightie-tightie,” said seventh-grader Avery Allen, as she tried to fit together the PVC framing. “Lefty-loosey!” chimed in classmate Sarah VanFossen.

So was being outdoors on the sunny Friday afternoon, raking new mulch beneath trees at the Salvation Army Kroc Center on South Division Avenue.

“I wish he’d get this excited about yard work at home,” joked one chaperone as her son pushed a wheelbarrow of mulch across the parking lot.

Those were just two of 35 organizations across the area that nearly 700 EGR students fanned out to volunteer for, as part of the school’s 11th annual Day of Caring.

“This day brings me such joy,” said Assistant Principal Shelly Schram. “Our hope is that we can instill a desire for our students to see the positive outcome of volunteering, and to continue this in the future.”


Students Walk in Haitian Students Shoes for a Day

Power of Education Foundation

Collaborative Art with Haitian School Selected for ArtPrize

- Sponsorship -
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Short stories, tall tales

A collection of short stories by Mark Pullen’s fourth-graders at Lakeside Elementary shows what they have learned in their realistic fiction writing unit...

Bringing ‘positive intent’ to work every day

Heather McKinney-Rewa is the new East Grand Rapids Middle School assistant principal. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet the Principal...

Fifth-graders find beauty in science by dissecting marigolds

One teacher used readily available nature just outside school to introduce this year’s science unit, as well as flowers from home to study the parts of plants...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU