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Students interview community partners to build bonds

Wyoming — With a list of questions in hand, fourth-graders Natyia Fox and Gio Zavala sat down in a meeting room at West Elementary to interview Krystalee Barry, an employee in operations at a nearby manufacturing business, National Nail.

They mostly wanted to know Barry’s favorite things: animal, place, ice cream, restaurant and car. And she was happy to share: dog, home, lemon cheesecake, Tacos El Caporal and Jeep.

The conversation led to laughs, quips and lots of sharing about what everyone likes.

Fun facts from an interview with Adam Homan from National Nail are posted on a bulletin board

Third- and fourth-grade Student Council members are conducting interviews with community volunteers this school year as a way to get to know each other and build ongoing relationships, said Stacey Carson, a Kent School Services Network community school coordinator who works at West. Fun facts from the interviews — like Barry’s favorite things, for example — are posted on a bulletin board with the volunteer’s photo.

Perhaps the most important question of the morning — “What is your favorite school?” — gave Barry the chance to explain why she was being interviewed: “Well, I’m going to say West Elementary. I have a lot invested in this school. I love the teachers, students and my daughter goes here.”

As a community partner, Wyoming-based National Nail supports West in a variety of ways. Barry and several of her colleagues volunteer regularly by reading to students and helping out with food-truck distributions. 

“I’d come every day if I could,” Barry said.

Krystalee Barry from National Nail, left, answers questions from Natyia Fox (front, right) and Gio Zavala as KSSN community school coordinator Stacey Carson listens

Building School and Community Bonds

The interviews help students develop an appreciation for the adults who lend a hand inside their school, Carson said. Those community partners also include Kent District Library’s Wyoming branch, Calvary Christian Reformed Church, CVS, Kids’ Food Basket and others. 

KSSN’s role in Kent ISD schools is to connect schools with community resources like these. 

“Community schools reach beyond just, ‘I’m a partner; I donated, and that’s it,’” Carson said. “The kids need to know, ‘Hey, so-and-so at this company in our neighborhood did this.’”

Barry, whose daughter, Savanna, is in third grade and son, Zyon, is in seventh grade at Wyoming Junior High, said she’s happy to be another person in the students’ lives “cheering them on.”

Connections can be established and grow both in school and out, and that’s important to her as a parent, she said. 

“It’s very nice to know that my kids have backing here too…Here, my kids are loved. They are taken care of.”

Natyia explained what it’s like to get to know the volunteers.

“You can be better friends and it can make the world a better place,” she said. “You want friends all around you, and not enemies — like my mama would always say!”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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