From recycling to running to laminating, this mom pretty much does it all

Collecting and recycling milk cartons is one of many ways Mandy Mynhier helps make Parkside Elementary a green-friendly school

On a typical school day for Mandy Mynhier, she is a) delivering classroom party refreshments for her daughter Lorelei’s 11th birthday; b) heading up Mileage Club, which gives students incentives for miles logged running; c) checking on her family’s donated chicks that have hatched in a kindergarten class; and d) conducting a compost audit of lunchroom waste with people from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC).

On another day, she could have been laminating documents for staff members. She also serves on the districtwide Inter-School Advisory Council, the Rockford Hope mental-health initiative and the Relay for Life committee, among other things.

Powered by Parents is a series highlighting the parents, grandparents and other family members who give their time in schools to help students and teachers do their best.

Mandy Mynhier’s help on the library laminating machine has made her the unofficial “lamination queen”

Not that she minds doing any of this. Being integrally involved in the schools of her daughters Lorelei (fifth grade, Parkside Elementary) and Morgan (seventh grade, North Rockford Middle School) is something she enjoys – and feels is necessary.

“If you want to know what’s going on at school, you have to be there,” said Mynhier in between tasks. “I’m a volunteer. That’s what I do.”

Much of Mynhier’s volunteering revolves around environmental efforts at Parkside, which has been recognized by Michigan Green Schools for its eco-friendly practices such as recycling and composting. Last year it earned Emerald status from the nonprofit, and this year earned its highest rank of Evergreen.

Mynhier will take these bags of used milk cartons to the Rockford recycling station

With fellow parent Kerrie LeBlanc, Mynhier has been at the fore of Parkside’s sustainability committee. Lorelei and Morgan have done their part by sharing projects with students such as a bat house and wheat grass. Teaching children from kindergarten on about earth care really matters, she says.

“To me it would be a beautiful thing if more schools were able to integrate some of these things, and have kids have a more mindful understanding of our planet and the ways that we impact it.”

The work of parent volunteers like Mynhier and LeBlanc has greatly boosted Parkside’s environmental education efforts, said Principal Larry Watters.

“When you have a group of people that make it their life’s passion to make a difference, however it might be, you let ‘em run with it,” he said.

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, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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