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Student Council lends a hand in Day of Caring

Making their mark through service

Thornapple Kellogg — The YMCA’s Camp Algonquin is relatively quiet on a recent sunny September morning compared to its busy summer days hosting campers, but as you approach its art cabin, a group of high-school students are buzzing around, working to clean and organize the space.

The students are from Thornapple Kellogg High School’s Student Council, and are spending the day volunteering at the camp as part of United Way’s Day of Caring in Barry County. Senior Thea Zellmer, council president, says that taking part in the day is right in line with the group’s mission as student leaders. 

“We as a Student Council are all about helping others,” she says. “That’s our claim, so coming out here and helping tons of little kids who are going to come here next summer is really important to us.” 

This is the second year the group is volunteering at Camp Algonquin, and Director Megan Muma says their energy and enthusiasm is much appreciated. 

“The fact that they got a project done in an hour that would take us a week to do (is extremely helpful),” she says. 

Sophomore Aiden Dudik likes that the volunteer day gets him into his community. “I think it’s really nice that I’m able to help my community and not just my school,” he says. 

‘So much of the time we’re just going about our day, but today we can give back and show what we’re about as leaders of the school.’

-junior Whitney Ruger

As Top 40 music blasts from a large portable speaker, students organize boxes of paints, beads and other art supplies. And when they’re finished, they get the chance to add to the colorful ambience in the cabin. Muma hands out bottles of bright acrylic paint to students and lets them take turns making a handprint on the cabin wall. 

Student Council and staff sponsors in the art cabin at Camp Algonquin (courtesy)

Seeing the Bigger Picture

The students really are making their mark as they become leaders, not just in their school but in their community. They love coming to the camp, says Student Council sponsor and math teacher Liz Ritsema. “They’re always asking, ‘Can we go and do that again?’” she says. 

Taking part in the Barry County Day of Caring helps the students see the bigger picture of how they can work together with other businesses and organizations in their area. 

“The Barry County United Way gives back so much to our community,” says Caitlin Chamberlin, math teacher and Student Council sponsor. 

Adds math teacher Caitlin Chamberlin: “To be able to bring our Student Council and to be immersed in this day really helps us set the tone well for the year. They love to see the big kick-off where all sorts of businesses are there, and then specifically to come to Camp Algonquin, where some of them have actually come as campers – they love being a part of that.” 

It’s about setting an example for others at the high school, says junior Whitney Ruger. 

“So much of the time we’re just going about our day, but today we can give back and show what we’re about as leaders of the school.”

Camp Director Megan Muma invites the students to leave their handprints on the wall of the art cabin
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Allison Poosawtsee
Alli Poosawtsee is a writer who made her home in West Michigan after spending her childhood living in the former Soviet Union and Germany. She served as the editor-in-chief for Calvin University's student newspaper and then spent nine years as a writer and content strategist at her alma mater. Both of her children attend Grand Rapids Public Schools and she is an ardent supporter of public education.

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